Have you passed by or under the historic Military Street Bridge in Port Huron?

If not, you might wait until after construction on the bridge is done and completed which will be around March 2015.

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The Military Street Bridge is scheduled for closure on January 15 to give way to rehabilitation works by the Michigan DOT.

Closure Of Military Street Bridge Over The Black River
On January 1, 2015 the Military Street Bridge over the Black River in Port Huron and the M29 Bridge in St. Clair, over the Pine River were scheduled for closure to give way so the Michigan Department of Transportation can do some improvement work on the two bridges. According to Michigan DOT spokeswoman, Diane Cross, the Michigan DOT is spending $2.8 million for the improvement work which will include upgrades to the electrical system; replacement of and upgrade on the hydraulic system; and cleaning, repairing and painting of the steel structural components of the bridge which would include replacement of appropriate bolt, nuts and 302 stainless steel flat washers and other worn-out parts and steel components.

Traffic Arteries Into Port Huron And St Clair Affected
Construction work will affect some 10,000 drivers crossing the Military Street Bridge every day and about 16,500 drivers crossing the other bridge – the M29 Bridge. The main traffic arteries into Port Huron and St. Clair will be closed to traffic for three months. Traffic – passenger vehicles and pedestrians to Port Huron will be detoured to the Seventh Street Bridge with commercial truck traffic detoured to the 10th Street Bridge while traffic to St. Clair will be detoured to Fred Moore Highway, King and Puttygut roads and Clinton Avenue.

Dredging Work Halfway Done
Work in the waterways has already started with the Malcolm Marine Co. having the contract from the US Army Corps of Engineers for the removal of 20,000 cubic yards of sediment from the Black River from St. Clair River upstream to the Interstate 94 overpass. Malcom Marine’s contract specifies completion of dredging by August 2015.

Esther Johnson, the Malcolm Marine project manager said that the dredging project is 50% complete. And per contract, they are not required to work during the winter months. But because of the good weather, the contractor wanted to keep on dredging and this has pushed back the bridges’ closure from January 1 to January 15.

Timber Work Included In Rehabilitation Work
Some of the wood timbers on the bridge’s underside which protect the bridges from marine traffic will also be replaced. Painting and concrete repairs are scheduled for the spring which will result in single lane closures. It is expected that all work will have been completed by June 12 even as the two bridges are to remain operational during the final phase of the rehabilitation work. The Michigan DOT had worked hard on scheduling with limited impact to the commuters and pedestrians using the two bridges.

Construction and rehabilitation works include replacement of some timber components that protect the bridge from marine traffic.

The rehabilitation of the Military Street Bridge will allow for more efficient operation and for the protection of this state asset. The Military Street Bridge is owned by the State of Michigan.

A Bit Of History
The Military Street Bridge replaced the 1914 bascule bridge which was the oldest highway bascule bridge at the time of demolition in 1990. It was a rare example of a Strauss trunnion bascule bridge which included:

  • a main trunnion and,
  • a counterweight trunnion

The usual Strauss bascule bridge features the counterweight over the roadway, but the 1914 bascule bridge concealed the counterweight trunnion below the deck to allow for a more aesthetically pleasing design. This bridge which was designed in 1912, was among the earliest surviving examples of Joseph Strauss-designed bridge.

Rare Features
The historic bridge also features gorgeous ornate railings classified as “arched lattice railing”. This type of railing design follows a pattern of arched lattice on the upper part of the panel while a row of traditional lattice are on the smaller lower section of the panel. This type of railing design varies from bridge to bridge but they appear on a number of bridges built from the late 19th century to the early part of the 20th century. The old bridge also featured wooden walkways on each side.

Other Bridges Before The Military Street Bridge
Before the Military Street Bridge, a long history of spans at this location included a wooden swing bridge which dated back to the 1850s. It was replaced by a beautiful pin-connected metal through truss swing-bridge believed to have been built by the Smith Bridge Company of Toledo, Ohio. This through truss bridge served as Port Huron’s gateway into the city. The next span was the 1914 bascule bridge with the ornate arched lattice railings. The old bascule bridge also had overhead trolley arches that held the electric lines for the trolleys but were removed in the 1950s.

The Military Street Bridge is the current span that replaced the 1914 bascule bridge. Will it last another decade?

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2 thoughts on “The Bridge That Replaced The 1914 Bascule Bridge Over The Black River”

  1. I’m glad to hear a news story about at least one older bridge being restored. Too many decaying bridges throughout the country are being neglected and as a result, so are many motorists who pass over bridges under the false pretense of safe navigation. Little do many people realize how unstable many bridges might be. I certainly hope the DOT continues to push for more action and funds so they can restore some of these overpasses.

  2. I learned that the Highway Department used this design until about 1930, and in that span designed and built perhaps hundreds of them through the state. Most of this type of bridge were single-span structures; the triple-span design and tapered piers of the Main Street – Black River Bridge mark it as a noteworthy example of the design’s potential.

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