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Posted on Tue, Nov 2, 2010 : 4:02 p.m.

Ann Arbor picks up $3 million more for Stadium bridges, now has $17.3 million in grants for project

By Ryan J. Stanton

The city of Ann Arbor is getting nearly $3 million from the state of Michigan for the East Stadium Boulevard bridges reconstruction project, officials announced today.

The Michigan Department of Transportation's Local Bridge Advisory Board awarded a grant for $1.75 million. MDOT also is chipping in another $1.2 million through a transportation enhancement grant for the 2011 fiscal year for non-motorized portions of the project.

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Local officials gather near the Stadium bridge span above South State Street last month to celebrate federal grant funds announced for the project. Now the state will be getting state grant funds, the last grant money it needs.

The state awards come on top of the $13.9 million TIGER II grant funds the city recently received from the U.S. Department of Transportation. U.S. Rep. John Dingell, D-Dearborn, also has secured $450,000 for the project in the fiscal year 2011 Transportation, House and Urban Affairs Appropriations bill, which passed the House by a vote of 251-167 on July 29.

That brings the total tally of federal and state grants for the $23 million project up to $17.3 million. 

And that leaves less than $6 million the city will have to come with on its own. City officials say there's enough money in the street millage and utility funds.

“We are thrilled to have 75 percent of the bridges replacement costs awarded in federal and state grants,” Mayor John Hieftje said in a statement today. “In comparison, in 2002 the Broadway bridges reconstruction project received approximately 58 percent of its total funding from federal and state funds. We are in a great place to begin reconstruction of the Ann Arbor bridges at our earliest opportunity in 2011, with construction expected to last approximately 18 months.”

City officials said construction of the non-motorized facilities, which are possible with the $1.2 million enhancement grant, will be an integral part of the reconstruction of the two bridges and are part of the city's Non-Motorized Transportation Plan, the Non-Motorized Plan for Washtenaw County and the vision for the Allen Creek Greenway. The improvements will provide safe access for pedestrians to Pioneer High School and the University of Michigan, city officials said.

The East Stadium bridges carry more than 28,000 vehicles per day. Since February 2009, traffic on the bridges has been limited to one lane in each direction due to ongoing deterioration of the bridge structures. 

The project includes completely replacing the two bridge spans over South State Street and the Ann Arbor Railroad tracks. The project limits extend from Kipke Drive to a point 200 feet west of South Industrial Highway.

Two community meetings have been held regarding preliminary design, but a future meeting also will be scheduled before construction begins next spring, city officials said today. At the meeting, city officials plan to discuss construction and traffic control plans with residents and make modifications as necessary.

A link to proposed detour routes is available on the project webpage.

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529.



Wed, Nov 3, 2010 : 9:02 p.m.

That stretch of track is owned by Ann arbor railroad. It is the only stretch of tracks in michigan that are privately owned. Oh yes and btw foobar, one train every couple of days goes through at 4 in the morning. Yea I'll take my chances at that RR crossing. I also didn't realize the rail road had specific entitlement to whether they have a road over pass their tracks or is attenuated by an intersection with a cross buck. Again, where is the U of M in this matter? Why don't they care about helping?


Wed, Nov 3, 2010 : 8:51 p.m.

Its not the material that is going too be the cost! Its the labor for the bill, and drive by bet ya you will find some workers standing around with there cell phones glued to there ears on federal and state funds.


Wed, Nov 3, 2010 : 7:10 p.m.

Yup. "Attack the messenger...". But quotable quotes galore. Regarding simple basic math: "Parlor tricks"? That's funny. What kind of school would teach that basic math (or any other misunderstood topic) is a parlor trick? What did Lincoln say? Something like: "Better to...than to open your mouth and prove it." On a more traditional note: Maallen, Tom Teague, and others, thank you for your kind and astute words.


Wed, Nov 3, 2010 : 12:05 p.m.

bugjuice, Classic. Attack the messenger when you can't focus on the message. Classic.

Tom Teague

Wed, Nov 3, 2010 : 11:53 a.m.

Back to the bridges for a moment: quick Googling can help you locate the City's project webpage and the Tiger Grant Application where you can get a better idea of how the project will look and some of the factors that went into selecting the current options. I'm a little skeptical of some of the societal costs that are listed in the discussion I posted. But on my drive to work this morning, I realized that an at-grade crossing on Stadium, coupled with the existing crossing on State would mean that a single train could block both a major north-south and major east-west route at the same time. I'm squarely in the bridge camp now. Quick note to @alphaalpha: I agree with you when you say that Pork is government money spent on a project you don't like. That's not a bad working definition. I hope the shock of my agreeing with you doesn't cause you to fall out of your chair; for me, it was a reminder that people with often conflicting views can find common ground, That was a good lesson to take away from this contentious political season. Thank you for the teachable moment.


Wed, Nov 3, 2010 : 11:40 a.m.

I suppose that maallen is from AlphaAlpha Centauri and not human like the rest of us. Simple solutions for simple minds.


Wed, Nov 3, 2010 : 10:54 a.m.

@bugjuice It is quite simple. It's human beings who like to complicate things. Spend less than what you take in. How hard is that? If you don't have the money to spend, then don't borrow it from china. Don't print more money. Wait until you have the money. But no, the republicans and democrats (moreso) like to spend the money because it's not theirs. They have no attachment to the money so they go out on a spending spree. That's why this election people were/are frustrated and wanted to vote all incumbents out of office and replace with new people. Hopefully, one by one, the right people will get into office and stop all this spending what we don't have nonsense. It's simple, really.


Wed, Nov 3, 2010 : 8:52 a.m.

And the RR pays taxes and transports goods for businesses who make and sell things, who employ people, who spend money and pay taxes, send their kids to schools... Oh, if only everything was so simple that a $2 calculator could fix it.


Wed, Nov 3, 2010 : 8:07 a.m.

As if easily spun statistical numbers (They're only "facts" because they're mathematically derived) were the only deciding factor. Like figuring the cost of infrastructure by the inch. Or figuring the amount of taxes each of us "owes" by simple division. Nothing more than parlor tricks. That's the way that tea partiers work by making it all seem so simple... when it isn't. Stuff costs money. Some stuff costs a lot of money. We pay taxes for stuff. Some we can pay for by ourselves. Sometime we need a little help. That's one reason that the government is there.


Wed, Nov 3, 2010 : 8:05 a.m.

@nimby: How does a new bridge benefit the RR? The RR owns the right-of-way, plain and simple. The citizenry (in the form of the city) does not have the right to connect the two halves of Stadium at grade. Railroads do not like at grade crossings, so adding new ones reduces the value of their private property. While I'm sure there is some equivalent to eminent domain to impose a new at grade crossing on a railroad, I suspect its very, very difficult (and costly). More generally, local, state, and federal governments spend millions of dollars routinely because of private property rights. There's nothing special about these 2 bridges. The city's professional staff released a report explaining their recommendation to reconstruct the 2 bridges. Going from memory, it boiled down to: 1) Railroad is not inclined to grant an at-grade crosssing. 2) Even if it was, there's not room to build the required intersection without taking excessive private property. 3) Even if they did, delays would be unacceptable. 4) Moreover, the clearances on the bridges are not up to modern standards. I think it's a fairly complete and compelling argument as to why we need the bridges. As I'm not a professional traffic engineer or a lawyer familiar with railroad right-of-way issues, I'm inclined to trust the professional staff to make a good evaluation on behalf of the citizenry of the best course for the next 50 years. Likewise, bridges cost that much and are routinely funded with federal and state support all across the country. (If someone could build one cheaper, they'd bid cheaper to get the work.) While it certainly could be improved, this is the system we have. Given all that, I'm inclined to be happy that our multiple levels of government are fixing vital transportation infrastructure.


Wed, Nov 3, 2010 : 6:56 a.m.

@ Tom Teague Thanks for the link. Nice to see the option was discussed. @ foobar 417 My point is that $23mil of taxpayers money is being spent primarily because of a private proerty right of way. I'm aware that it is the citizens who will benefit from the bridge's existence with a safer crossing and reduced potental traffic gridlocks benefits the RR as well. I'm just saying


Wed, Nov 3, 2010 : 6:46 a.m.

For those who say the two Stadium bridges are not pork, read: Of course there are all degrees of "pork" as the examples illustrate, but there is no denying the our Stadium bridge funding is "pork", by definition.


Wed, Nov 3, 2010 : 6:24 a.m.

@Nephilim: Glad to see you're ready to conveniently dismiss the railroad's private property rights and the city's traffic engineers expert recommendations. Personally, I prefer to live in a society governed by the rule of law and that actually follows technical processes to determine appropriate infrastructure investment.

Joe Hood

Wed, Nov 3, 2010 : 6:24 a.m.

Money doesn't come for free. Which strings are attached to this funding? Can the city build the any bridge they want with this money?


Tue, Nov 2, 2010 : 10:45 p.m.

Yea that is great that the "Feds" and the "state" are picking up 75% of the bill. Loose translation: the whole country and state of Michigan tax payers can now pay for one cities failing infrastructure that they knew was going to pieces 5 years ago. Yea I enjoy paying for other peoples stuff. Thanks Ann arbor and especially thank you U of M. I know ive never seen a university vehicle go over the old bridge. How much is the good ole U kicking in to help this project? Tear it out and put a 4 way stop back in. Bet that doesn't cost 20 some million dollars.


Tue, Nov 2, 2010 : 9:11 p.m.

"It's well known that figures can lie and liars can figure." Translation: "Counter the facts with childish slogans".

mike from saline

Tue, Nov 2, 2010 : 9:08 p.m.

@ Doug Gross. I think your thoughtful post hit the nail right on the head. This whole process is a recipe for coruption. And I can't see how anyone could defend it.


Tue, Nov 2, 2010 : 8:53 p.m.

"... Aren't we better off paying taxes locally and paying for our own bridges?... We have no idea how much we effectively paid as taxpayers for everyone elses bridges etc.... Somehow I think there is a lot of money lost when we send it to them and they send it back again!" There's two main aspects to this that I can see. It would be nice to have more transparency at the federal level regarding how representatives slice up and apportion a big financial pie, and what congressional horsetrading occurred along the way. This is a variation on the same theme of open government that's discussed locally at the level of county commission and city council. Knowing how it all happened would help make the process more honest. Yes, it seems strange for the locals to send a pile of cash to D.C. so that someone like Dingell can negotiate to bring it back here. The justification for such a roundabout method is the goal of a more equitable distribution of funds. Localities or regions with high poverty or low population or both may otherwise see infrastructure deterioration without help from federal sources. Of course, Beltway politics will interfere with the goal of equity. Besides more transparency, Americans have to be willing to pay attention to what's going on and who they elect to send to D.C. Not only are there concerns about how well redistribution works in practice, but general questions about uses and purposes also arise. Where and when bridges get built is one thing, and $660 billion a year spent for military interests is something else altogether.


Tue, Nov 2, 2010 : 8:51 p.m.

@ David Briegel, lets not forget to ask them not to use their land lines and cell phone, because that infrastructure certainly wasn't federally funded. I wonder if any of them can speak to the efforts placed on the Tennesee valley years ago and the outcome of that?

joe average

Tue, Nov 2, 2010 : 8:48 p.m.

How much of this money can we funnel off in order to blanket the entire city with these surveillance cameras the students and the ACLU are all flipped out about? And if we had hovercars in the first place, we wouldn't need no stinkin' bridges. So there.


Tue, Nov 2, 2010 : 8:45 p.m.

The state would be better off dedicating this money towards eradicating the Asian carp.

larry kramer

Tue, Nov 2, 2010 : 8:08 p.m.

I'm waiting for the historic whackos to declare the bridge an historic structure!

Tom Teague

Tue, Nov 2, 2010 : 7:58 p.m.

Good discussion on why the city rejected the "at-grade" option in a February 17 article by Ryan at this link: The discussion appears in the comments section following the article.


Tue, Nov 2, 2010 : 7:48 p.m.

It's well known that figures can lie and liars can figure.


Tue, Nov 2, 2010 : 7:16 p.m.

"And if we left it up to people who think like you, who don't like paying the kind of taxes it takes to..." News flash: none are paying 'those kind of taxes'. 12T debt shared by 130M workers = $92,000 owed by each worker. Is that enough?


Tue, Nov 2, 2010 : 6:48 p.m.

Doug, here's why we just don't do it with local money. I'm not sure about you, but... WE are part of something bigger than just where someplace where a few of us live. We are part of a nation called the United States of America. WE think of others first and help them when we can and get help from them when we need it. And if we left it up to people who think like you, who don't like paying the kind of taxes it takes to build and maintain infrastructure like roads, bridges, schools, etc that bridge would have crumbled and never been repaired.


Tue, Nov 2, 2010 : 6:43 p.m.

@Nimby. The railroad has property rights. The city can't just arbitrarily decide to impose a new at grade railroad crossing, whether or not the city feels the traffic on the tracks warrants a bridge or not. @Doug Gross: The city acts like this is "successful" because it is successful, given the realities of the current political system. It's a separate, completely reasonable question as to whether we should have the current system of sending our taxes to the federal government and then having them allocate the money nationwide. The negatives are obvious: the federal government is a leaky bucket and the allocation back to the states is not necessarily fair. However, one can make an argument that this system allows us to act in the national interest, where the national interest does not necessarily correspond to a proportional allocation of funds to the states. For example, it may well be in the national interest to overinvest in NYC and underinvest in Cheyenne or vica versa. Likewise, local communities may be unable to muster the funds or political will to pay for major investments that come at long intervals (in effect large spikes on the funding graph). The federal government in effect acts as a smoothing function (albeit a leaky one) by supplementing funds on a targeted basis for particularly meritorious projects (as the TIGER program was designed to do). I'm not saying this argument is sufficiently compelling to convince you, but it is at least worth consideration. To give a concrete example: do you think we'd have the national interstate system if our only funding mechanism during the Eisenhower administration had been municipal and state governments? I'm not an economist, but I'd bet a reasonable argument could be made that the economic benefits of a federal program of investment in the national highway system more than paid for itself in economic growth then the "leaky bucket" effect cost in terms of misused tax dollars. If you agree with that example, then I'd argue that you have to at least give credence to a system of federal tax dollars investing in targeted infrastructure on a nationwide basis.


Tue, Nov 2, 2010 : 6:37 p.m.

"Pork would have been federal money for..." projects you don't like.

David Briegel

Tue, Nov 2, 2010 : 6:36 p.m.

Please, all you naysayers, promise here and now to never, ever use that bridge or any other federal highway. Please do not lose your phony "fiscal conservatism" these next few years when Republicans start sending money "home". Make certain you express the same outrage at the "billionaire tax cut, borrow and spend", Bridge to Nowhere crowd returns to power. You would never want to be hypocritical!

Doug Gross

Tue, Nov 2, 2010 : 5:59 p.m.

The question we should be asking is, so John Dingle got us money to build a bridge; as part of a how many billion dollar bill? So what he did is agree to all kinds of projects all over the country of perhaps dubious value to pay to build a bridge for us on a non-federal or even state highway. Is this the way we want to run our govt? Aren't we better off paying taxes locally and paying for our own bridges? Why do we act like this is successful? We have no idea how much we effectively paid as taxpayers for everyone elses bridges etc. I realize my comments are not going to change the way govt. is run, maybe we just have to play the game but perhaps it is time to ask, should the rules of the game change? Should local projects be paid for locally and the Federal Govt stick with national issues? Somehow I think there is a lot of money lost when we send it to them and they send it back again! Doug Gross


Tue, Nov 2, 2010 : 5:30 p.m.

Pork would have been federal money for the expansion of the Ann Arbor airport or a new bridge to nowhere like the the one that quitter hypocrite Sarah Palin wanted before she didn't want it. It's not necessary and we don't need it. The two Stadium bridges are not pork. They are necessary and serve millions of people all year round. We paid for them and now we're getting the money to build them.


Tue, Nov 2, 2010 : 5:22 p.m.

Yes we are all beating a dead horse to some extent. As far as the money coming from Washington, Michigan ranks 37th in 2005 for money coming back to the state. Considering the time our Senators and Representatives have been in Washington, one would think we would be receiving more pork. Granted PORK is bad but when 33 states are receiving at least $1.00 per $1.00 sent, we should be on the wagon too or pressing to end PORK!!


Tue, Nov 2, 2010 : 5:09 p.m.

A question for Mr Stanton. I am curious as to how much of the cost of the bridge the RR is responsible for or has agreed to pay? If not for the bridge over the tracks, there would be no need for the bridge over State St. there is no need for the intersection over State St. to be above grade. Traffic volume there is no different than any other major at grade intersection in town. Is the volume of trains using those tracks so great to require an above grade crossing? If not, would it cost less just to take out the brides?


Tue, Nov 2, 2010 : 4:52 p.m.

"$23M for the bridge. An even more ridiculous amount." "23m for that bridge seems excessive," Nah - $23M works out to (a bit) less than $10,000 per inch..." As if either one of these ridiculous posts was relevant to contributory. Just like when George HW Bush went to a grocery store and didn't know what a gallon of milk cost or what a barcode scanner was some people don't get out enough or know what a serious construction project will actually cost when it's underway in a year or two. Or would you prefer to outsource the construction to India or "value engineer" the project on building materials on two bridges that cross over a major road and a railroad and connects west and central Ann Arbor to points east and about a million other people who go to the athletic facilities? Some people just can't get past their anti government contempt. Get real and be happy that we are getting back some of the 80 cents on the dollar we send to Washington. Now can we kill this dead horse again?


Tue, Nov 2, 2010 : 4:23 p.m.

"$23M for the bridge. An even more ridiculous amount." "23m for that bridge seems excessive," Nah - $23M works out to (a bit) less than $10,000 per inch...


Tue, Nov 2, 2010 : 4:22 p.m.

Dr. Rob Steele endorses that the bridge be named The John Dingell Memorial Bridge.


Tue, Nov 2, 2010 : 4:10 p.m.

I agree, 23m for that bridge seems excessive, hopefully that won't include things that arn't necessary such as "public art"

Basic Bob

Tue, Nov 2, 2010 : 4:06 p.m.

The city's project web pages need to be maintained. The Geddes Road/Earhart Road project page reads "Last Updated: December 3, 2009". By the way, it's been open a few weeks now. It's been quite funny to watch the confused drivers. Fortunately there's not that many. I had hoped to see a story on But I digress. Hopefully they maintain the bridge page better.


Tue, Nov 2, 2010 : 4 p.m.

I agree with Marshall, a design similar to the Broadway bridge would be good. As far as the posts about the cost, if you think you can build it for less, submit a bid to the city.

Tim Darton

Tue, Nov 2, 2010 : 3:57 p.m.

Congrats to the city! Very happy they did not start construction this year or they would have lost out on the Fed. & State money. The Broadway Bridges are beautiful. The city did a great job. The new bridges on Stadium should be very nice as well. This is actually two bridges, one over State St. and one over the RR tracks. Several people I know are starting to like the look of the new police and courts building the further along it gets. The city courts have to move out of the county courthouse by February 1, so they must be getting close to finishing.


Tue, Nov 2, 2010 : 3:50 p.m.

It's actually $23M for the bridge. An even more ridiculous amount.

Michael Christie

Tue, Nov 2, 2010 : 3:31 p.m.

$17m for a bridge to go over 2 lanes of traffic is just ridiculous. There's not a less expensive bridge that can be built, yet still attractive? I guess the city will decide and we all know how good of a job they do with their design work, just look at the new City Hall.


Tue, Nov 2, 2010 : 3:30 p.m.

A last minute push by the dem's to buy some votes.

Marshall Applewhite

Tue, Nov 2, 2010 : 3:13 p.m.

Also, I'm curious..... Is the planned Stadium Bridge supposed to be similar in appearance to the Broadway Bridge? I think a raised span would make that area much nicer.

Marshall Applewhite

Tue, Nov 2, 2010 : 3:10 p.m.

Hopefully this is a pretty great bridge for $17M...I'm looking forward to something that is both functional and aesthetically pleasing. FYI: The "project webpage" link doesn't work.