Ypsilanti’s Michigan Avenue bridge, built in 1912

ypsibridge2My dad, who lives in Kentucky, sent me a report by the Michigan Department of Transportation on bridge health today, suggesting that I perhaps alter my routes based upon the information contained within it. For the most part, I didn’t see anything too terribly shocking, but I was surprised to see that downtown Ypsilanti had one of the oldest, still operational bridges in Washtenaw County. According to the report, our Michigan Avenue bridge spanning the Huron River, was built in 1912. There were other old bridges on the list, to be sure, but they’d all been reconstructed in the decades since they first went into use.

I mentioned this to a friend, who generally knows about such things, and he suggested that perhaps it had been rebuilt at some point, but that record of it having happened had been lost. I suspect, however, given the volume of traffic it sees daily, that it’s never been rebuilt, but instead just patched up as needed. Still, though, it’s health assessment, according to the engineers who contributed to the report, is still pretty good. In fact, as my friend pointed out, it seems to be fairing better than the Cross Street bridge, which was rebuilt in 1984, and is already showing significant signs of distress. (According to this same friend, we’ll probably see weight-restrictions for the Cross Street bridge the not-too-distant future.)

I don’t bring this up to necessarily panic anyone, or to suggest that our downtown bridge needs to be rebuilt immediately. I trust the opinion of the civil engineers who last inspected it, and gave it a clean bill of health. I do, however, find it interesting that, for its age, it seems to be faring better than any other bridge in Washtenaw County, and wonder why that is. (This assumes, of course, that the report linked to above is correct, and that the bridge hasn’t in fact been rebuilt since 1912.)

Speaking of our nation’s aging infrastructure – most of which was built in the years directly following World War II – if you haven’t yet, I’d suggest reading up on the proposed National Infrastructure Bank, and asking your elected officials to support it.

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  1. Posted April 5, 2011 at 7:23 am | Permalink

    And if you *really* want to kill time on this, you can look at all the data mapped on SEMCOG’s website: http://www.semcog.org/Data/Maps/roads.map.cfm

  2. Knox
    Posted April 5, 2011 at 7:33 am | Permalink

    We should have a 100 year birthday party on the bridge next year.

  3. Anonymatt
    Posted April 5, 2011 at 7:41 am | Permalink

    Is there a corresponding report on the health of Michigan’s tridges?

  4. Tom
    Posted April 5, 2011 at 8:40 am | Permalink

    Last summer we were canoeing under the M14 bridge over in Bandemer Park and noticed a bunch of spray paint highlighting cracks and divots. None of the spots looked like a problem, but kinda makes you wonder.

  5. Kim
    Posted April 5, 2011 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    I suspect that we could find articles about the bridge’s original construction in the Ypsi archives.

  6. Christine M
    Posted April 5, 2011 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

    My dad was a civil engineer who built many of the larger overpasses (well his company did) in Metro Detroit. He said at one point there was a company marketing this material that was a steel that would rust but they said it only rusted to a certain point and then would stop and remain strong for many years. So in Detroit (I’m not sure where anymore) they built these bridges of this stuff and then a few years later realized it was WRONG and would not last nearly as long as they had claimed it would last. So when driving if you see a bridge that is rusty looking it could be make of this stuff…but maybe they have replaced them all by now. I’m not sure.

    The other interesting tidbit he ranted about was how they knew how to build strong roads that would last but nobody would pay for them in this country (unlike in Europe). He really hated blacktop. He was a big fan of concrete.

    That was my dad, man of much knowledge. All gone now though.

  7. Caring Parent
    Posted April 8, 2011 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    There are two ways you can leave your children saddled with debt. One is to leave them bank debt. The other is leaving them an estate that is in decay.

    Our parents, in their greed, are leaving us both. We have massive national debt and a crumbling infrastructure that is need of billions in repair.

    Something to consider when choosing their retirement homes.

  8. Eel
    Posted April 8, 2011 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    The self-proclaimed “greatest generation” look especially great when viewedt next to their kids, the most “selfish generation” the world has known. The problem lies with baby boom tea partiers.

  9. cmadler
    Posted April 13, 2011 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

    Here’s a photo of the previous Michigan Avenue bridge.

  10. History Buff
    Posted April 13, 2011 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    I didn’t know they had metal back then.

  11. Meta
    Posted September 23, 2011 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    Maybe we can get it fixed.

    Dear MoveOn member,

    Can you take a photo to help create jobs?

    Yesterday, President Obama spoke from the Brent Spence bridge over the Ohio River about the vital connection between jobs and infrastructure repair. The Brent Spence bridge has been rated functionally obsolete and unsafe, it carries nearly twice the traffic it was designed to handle, and earlier this year, chunks of concrete fell from its upper level. And it isn’t the only essential piece of infrastructure that’s falling apart.

    It’s shameful that our bridges are literally crumbling while construction workers are unable to find employment. America’s infrastructure needs work, and Americans need jobs. The solution is obvious: Put people back to work repairing our bridges, dams, highways, schools, and the rest of our failing infrastructure.

    We’re putting pressure on Congress to pass a jobs plan that does just that. But we need to make the problem visible. That’s why the American Dream movement is setting out to find and photograph the jobs that need doing—and we need your help.

    Can you take a picture of a job that needs doing in your community? It could be a bridge, dam, road, school, levee, or any other piece of our infrastructure that needs repair.

    It’s easy, and you can get all the details by clicking here.


    We want to bring this problem home to members of Congress. That means showing pictures of disrepair in their own districts. We’ll deliver a compilation of your pictures to Congress and use them to remind the public of all the ways our communities could be improved if we put the millions of people who are unemployed back to work.

    Can you help out by adding a photo of infrastructure in your area that needs repair?

    After you add your photo to the collection, pass this on to family and friends across the country. Together we’ll use these images to make this a problem Congress can’t continue to ignore.

    Thanks for all you do.

    –Daniel, Joan, Wes, Marika, and the rest of the team

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  1. […] Let’s just hope that next time, it’s not a car falling though a hole in one of our aging bridges, instead of just a leg.And one last thing… At what point do we as a community begin to […]

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