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Posted on Thu, Aug 23, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

Ann Arbor's new Stadium bridges taking shape but won't be open in time for U-M football season

By Ryan J. Stanton


A motorist drives under the East Stadium Boulevard bridge span over State Street on Tuesday afternoon. The project is coming along and the bridge is expected to be open to traffic on or before Nov. 14.

Melanie Maxwell |

Anyone who's driven down State Street in Ann Arbor lately might have already noticed the new East Stadium Boulevard bridges are taking shape — and before long they'll be open to traffic.

But it won't be before the University of Michigan's first home football game on Sept. 8. In fact, the bridges are guaranteed to be out for at least the first two-thirds of the season.

Michael Nearing, the city's senior project manager, said the tentative open date is still "on or before Nov. 14," which is what city officials have been saying all along.


While traffic is able to pass under the new Stadium bridge on State Street, University of Michigan football fans won't be able to use the new bridge to get to at least the first four games this year.

Melanie Maxwell |

"We're basically on schedule," Nearing said Wednesday afternoon. "We basically have all of the retaining walls built except one. We are planning on pouring the two bridge decks next week, weather permitting, and we have our paving completed on State Street.

"We're closely monitoring the progress of construction," he added. "And if we think we'll be open before Nov. 14, I'll be the first one to share that excellent news with the world."

U-M has six home football games this year: two in September, two in October and two in November. Nearing said the bridges definitely won't be open for the four games in September and October.

The last two home games fall on Nov. 10 and 17. Asked about the chances of the bridges being open by then, Nearing responded: "We'll see what happens with the November games."

"I've had conversations with folks at the university," Nearing said. "I'm sure portions of Stadium Boulevard will be paved. I don't know if it will be open to traffic. We're definitely close."

Nearing said two university parking lots near the bridges that were used for staging during the construction project have been repaved, striped and opened.

"So things are going pretty well," he said. "If the weather continues to be favorable, we fully expect to be open to traffic on Nov. 14."

Demolition work on the old Stadium bridges began shortly after U-M's final home game of the season last November, so this marks the first season that the bridges will be out. That presents a logistical challenge for thousands of fans coming into Ann Arbor to see the Wolverines play this year.

Ann Arbor police are planning to have a special traffic control program in place. The university also is getting the word out to football fans via and other channels.

"We have always been working under the original estimated construction schedule that the bridge wasn't going to be available all season, so anything earlier is bound to be a plus," said Jim Kosteva, a spokesman for the university. "More importantly, we have attempted to, and will continue to, communicate extensively with our football patrons about the construction and associated road closure."

On the first page of this year's "stadium guide" that was sent to all season ticket holders, extensive information is provided about the construction and suggested alternatives, Kosteva said. The guide alerts fans to expect that Stadium Boulevard will be closed from South Industrial Highway to Kipke Drive.

The same information is posted here:

U-M says its game day traffic analysis has indicated that Main Street, Ann Arbor-Saline Road and State Street are consistently the most congested thoroughfares. It has put together a color-coded map of parking zones and associated highway access points for fans to expedite their arrival and departure on game day.

The guide suggests these three alternative routes:

  • If coming to Ann Arbor from the north, try M-14 Exit 2 — Maple Road (green zone). Follow Maple Road south as it merges with Stadium Boulevard and leads to the stadium area.
  • If coming to Ann Arbor from the east or northeast, consider using US-23 Exit 41 — Plymouth Road (yellow zone). Take Plymouth Road west to Huron Parkway to Geddes (south of the river), then west to approach the stadium area. Or, to park in areas east of State Street or along South Industrial Highway, follow US-23 to Exit 37 — Washtenaw Avenue, and head west. Continue straight onto Stadium Boulevard at the split and head west toward the stadium area.
  • If coming to Ann Arbor from the west, use I-94 Exit 172 — Jackson Road (purple zone). Take Jackson Road to Stadium Boulevard, turn right (south) and continue toward the stadium area.


Courtesy of University of Michigan

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's email newsletters.



Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 6:23 p.m.

I can't wait to drive over this new bridge. Going to be sweet not having to wonder if a bus is going to drop from the sky.


Thu, Aug 23, 2012 : 8:23 p.m.

Man, football saturdays are gonna be just BRUTAL! Oh well, this was absolutely necessary. The old bridge was about to collapse


Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 2:38 a.m.

Whats even worse is that, rather than fix the problem immediatley, they just closed two lanes of the bridge! C'mon now, if its not structurally sound to hold 4 lanes of traffic, tear it down!


Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 12:46 a.m.

I agree... I live right there, and for more than a year before this project I was already going around the entire thing: those bridges were too dangerous to drive on and I am glad nobody got hurt.


Thu, Aug 23, 2012 : 9:08 p.m.

I can't believe they were just letting traffic go over it with the constrcution cones for two years!


Thu, Aug 23, 2012 : 8:10 p.m.

Finally!!! I feel the pain of my fellow daily commutors of A2, but trust me it is worth the wait!!! If I had to complain about anything it would be the constant car repairs (esp suspension components) that need to be done to my vehicles!! Someone did make a good point early though, is it really necessary to have this many construction projects going on?? Inconvience I can deal with but what about an older person suffering from lets say cardiac arrest or some other medical emergency that requires police, fire trucks, emt...?? Correct me if Im wrong


Thu, Aug 23, 2012 : 8 p.m.

Eh, Ryan, please explain why you wrote this article as if the Stadium Bridge Project was done primarily to support U of M Home Game traffic. The bridge replacement(s) were done entirely on the basis of the need to prevent a traffic safety hazard for the 25,000+ vehicles using these bridges DAILY. The focus on traffic convenience during the few annual home games is misleading people (your readers) into thinking that the project is devoted to football fans, which is never was. The city called on Congressman Ðingell to come see for himself the need for bridge replacement. This is just doing their job and using the long-established official channels - the city officials involved should be praised for their knowledge and acumen and the Congressman was just doing what legislative representatives ARE SUPPOSED TO DO. Maybe if gave it some thought, they might take into account the company's role in "forming public opinion" when it really amounts to mis-informing and mangling public perception of important public projects like this one. I know you were trying to advise / update us on the progress of the project by giving notice that "football traffic" would not be able to use the bridges THIS season. But that could be served by a brief footnote instead of a single-focus headline and half-the-story article. It would be really bad news if rushing the project resulted in bridge failure - why not use that to make clear how important it is to do this project right?


Thu, Aug 23, 2012 : 7:51 p.m.

I'm sure the construction could have been accelerated, as GoNavy suggests, but almost certainly at a higher cost than was necessary. Extraordinary things are possible when required, but the ordinary was adequate here. My favorite "where there's a will there's a way" story: before we entered WWII, the US was providing oil to Great Britain under the Lend Lease program. Tankers would leave the Gulf of Mexico and go up the East Coast and cross the Atlantic. We were losing too many boats to German subs on that long voyage, so it was decided to build an oil pipeline from the Gulf to New York City area where tankers could fill up and take the crude across the ocean. Engineers built the pipeline in SIX WEEKS. It was done in such a hurry that the first oil shipment was sent down the pipeline from the Gulf before the construction was even completed in New Jersey. They had to rush to complete it before the oil made it's way north. Today we couldn't even schedule the first meetings to discuss such a pipeline in six weeks.


Thu, Aug 23, 2012 : 6:10 p.m.

Alternate headline: "Ann Arbor's new Stadium bridges right on schedule, but we need the page views"


Thu, Aug 23, 2012 : 8:35 p.m.

Fair enough.

Kyle Mattson

Thu, Aug 23, 2012 : 7:39 p.m.

Hi Sig- There was some discussion circulating that the bridge project may have been ahead of schedule and planning to be open in some form for the first game which prompted our update into its overall status.


Thu, Aug 23, 2012 : 6:34 p.m.

I'm not saying it's not a legitimate news story, it is. I'm saying the headline is written in such a way as to imply that the goal for completion was the beginning of the U-M football season, which it wasn't. Otherwise, why even mention it?

Jay Thomas

Thu, Aug 23, 2012 : 6:24 p.m.

It's a legit story. does the same with buildings under completion and I will be forwarding this to someone.


Thu, Aug 23, 2012 : 5:26 p.m.

I think it's pretty impressive actually that they'll get this project done in only one year. It's a pretty large, complicated job. But, it will be worth it when finally done. The bridges will look a huge amount better and be more functional than the pre-decay bridges were. Not having them done for the football games will be an inconvenience for sure, but workable.


Thu, Aug 23, 2012 : 11:30 p.m.

Impressive, no! Building the Hoover dam, yes impressive by any definition of the word. This is a small project. Oh - I am an engineer if you need this info.


Thu, Aug 23, 2012 : 5:01 p.m.

Great job so far! Completion will be most welcomed. If there is only going to be one fire station at Stadium & Packard - responsible for emergency alarms across 1/3rd of the entire city - that bridge might just save some lives Westside.

Tom Wieder

Thu, Aug 23, 2012 : 3:51 p.m.

I love living in A2, but some of the complaining about things is unbelievable, especially when it comes to roads and football. So, getting to and from 4-6 football games may be tougher. So what? An inconvenience, nothing more. Grow up! Yes, getting around town this summer has been a pain with all of the construction, but, if we weren't having that, people would complain about the sorry state of the roads. As I understand it, the flurry of construction was partially made possible by the sudden availability of local funds that would otherwise have been spent on the Stadium bridges, before the federal grant was obtained. Of course, this project could have been completed more quickly. The massive I-35 bridge in Minneapolis that collapsed into the Mississippi River was replaced in about 8 months, but that speed costs a huge amount of money. That was a very major artery in a large city. Is getting a bridge done to avoid inconvenience for no more than 6 weekend sports events really woth an extra expenditure of public dollars? No.


Thu, Aug 23, 2012 : 7:29 p.m.

Well, if you go back to the original plan & proposal for bridge renovation, it clearly states that the Stadium bridges carry over 25,000 vehicles - per day! The idea of "providing for" the traffic during six football weekends was not mentioned officially and only as an afterthought later. The closing of Stadium was never a welcomed idea and did involve reduced volume for businesses in the S. State / Stimpson/ Idustrial Hwy. area. The idea that the bridge project was focused on football weekends is badly mistaken because "public dollars" were spent to benefit public safety, commuters, around-town travelers and businesses - first. Your comparison with the "necessary" bridge replacement in Minneapolis is also a bit short sighted: it was just such disasters that led to the inspection of the State Street Bridges and it was determined that - to avoid a similar disaster - the bridges had to be replaced. Thereby proving: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of (emergency accelerated) cure. :-) Comments and votes in response to this article merely reflect the general lack of knowledge and training when it comes to actual ability to handle the requirements for decision making. But then, opinions are free and worth "every penny" eh?


Thu, Aug 23, 2012 : 3:17 p.m.

We could have had a new set of Stadium Bridges years ago~! That is, if all the experts commenting negatively had simply handed over $21 million and supplied their construction genius to get this done. Where were all these worthies in 2009, when the city had to go begging for the money? Where were they when the official plans were announced? Oh wait, armchair critics sometimes come up a little short on both fronts - LOL! Fielding Yost is to blame for this "disaster" - he's the one who had Michigan Stadium built in the first place. What a terrible lack of foresight and planning! ROFL! ;-)

mike gatti

Thu, Aug 23, 2012 : 2:48 p.m.

It has been a tough driving summer. Stadium bridge and then at Packard under construction. Packard under construction at Platt. Geddes is under construction around the Arb and detoured. Then short projects on Washtenaw closing a lane here and there around the Ive's woods area. Liberty work. It has been tough going east to west. I hope something opens soon. I don't know why all have to be done at once. Not to mention Seventh.


Thu, Aug 23, 2012 : 2:38 p.m.

Is this helping to save the planet? Usually everything done in Ann Arbor saves the planet one way or another and costs more money because if it?

Dog Guy

Thu, Aug 23, 2012 : 1:36 p.m.

The only deadline is Dingell's ribbon-cutting photo opportunity before election day. With no real opposition this time, maybe his position on gun control could evolve also.


Thu, Aug 23, 2012 : 5:09 p.m.

If Dingell had not stepped up and got us the money, all the other road projects that are being done now, would have been put off. As you drive the city, you can see a bunch. Thank you John Dingell!!!


Thu, Aug 23, 2012 : 4:56 p.m.

Never let the facts interfere with a good rant. Election date: November 6, 2012 Possible completion date of bridge: Nov. 14, 2012

Beth Wilensky

Thu, Aug 23, 2012 : 1:30 p.m.

Ryan, could you please look into whether the repaving of Stadium east of Packard will be finished by the first home game? I seem to remember that that project was supposed to be completed in July. I drive that stretch daily and I wonder whether the work will really be completed in two weeks. And the link on the city's website to the 2012 Street Resurfacing Project (Citywide) doesn't work, so I can't find the information on line. Thanks.


Thu, Aug 23, 2012 : 1:08 p.m.

I cannot speak to this project. But generally most of the projects I see do not seem to have much going on at any given time. This goes for road construction and building projects. It seems there are only a few workers on sites. As opposed to 15-30 years ago when jobs would have lots of activity going on at the same time.I attribute this to companies having skeleton crews and they spread them thin running from job to job trying to keep each job happy for a few days. I know people in construction that used to run one maybe two jobs that are now asked to cover 4-5 jobs. How many times do you see roads with barricades and cones all over but no worker in site.


Thu, Aug 23, 2012 : 12:45 p.m.

Weather permitting? With the mild winter, and the dry summer, this project should be ahead of schedule. We're there any incentives to complete early or at least on time.

Urban Sombrero

Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 10:23 p.m.

@Wolverine Finishing this in the past would be....awesome. I'd love that. Seriously, though, I'll admit I'm being nitpicky. It is a good thing they'll finish ahead of schedule, even if it's only a few days. HOWEVER, it just seems to me that, with the nice weather we've had, they should have run even more ahead of time. Their original estimates on the length of construction HAD to allow for snow, right? (No one knew we'd have the mild winter we had.) The fact that we had virtually none of it, and had many clear, dry days makes me wonder why they couldn't work a little faster. I know, I know, I'm nitpicking. That's what I do. I'm just impatient! This is my usual way home. My detour is AWFUL! I'm just anxious for it to be done, I guess. :)


Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 3:01 a.m.

@Urban Sombrero - So you're not satisfied with finishing AHEAD of schedule. What more do you want? That it be done in the past?!?! Let's get real..

Urban Sombrero

Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 12:10 a.m.

@Bmore_Wolverine.....13 days early? That's not really something to rejoice about. Especially considering that we had virtually no snow after January, when most years we have snow, at least somewhat, into April. I'm willing to bet that if the city had offered incentives (ahem, $$$) for finishing early, based on the mild winter and good, dry weather we've had this year.....this bridge would be close to done by now. I'll be glad when this is done. Let's just leave it at that.


Thu, Aug 23, 2012 : 3:14 p.m.

@Hunterjim - In the article they indicated that they are on schedule. And in the article the quote from Nearing was 'If the weather continues to be favorable, we fully expect to be open to traffic on Nov. 14.' The official target date for that phase of the project is November 27. THAT MEANS THEY WILL COMPLETE THAT PART OF THE PROJECT EARLY. You're getting exactly what you're asking for. Why are you complaining?


Thu, Aug 23, 2012 : 1:19 p.m.

That's what I was thinking. "If we just continue to get this once-in-100-years nice weather we MAY just finish on time".


Thu, Aug 23, 2012 : 12:31 p.m.

Of course in November of last year they said the Garage Mahal would open in January 2012. So in two months they fell another six months behind schedule. And they still staged a bogus "Grand Opening" before it was actually open so that they could act like it was done before Art Fairs. Maybe without the DDA involved this actually has a chance.


Thu, Aug 23, 2012 : 11:52 a.m.

Kudos to the firm that has stayed to the schedule. One of a very few fortunate groups to have not had rain this summer. Construction in 100 degree heat had to have been tough on all involved yet they stayed the course and worked diligently to maintain this massive project. All of the workers, engineers, project managers, safety personnel, have done a tremendous job to keep us all moving the right direction.


Thu, Aug 23, 2012 : 11:17 a.m.

Good read and very informative. I hope the map provided for football traffic is read by many who are planning to visit on game day. Sounds like the Athletic Department has done their part in providing alternate routes to getting to the stadium. I don't think the bridge outage will not have an adverse impact to the traffic flow. It has been a pain for us local who have to detour on a daily basis. As for the bridge project, I am no civil engineer, but it seems like this has been such a comprehensive project. Good thing the weather has been favorable during this time, to date. Looking forward to the completion.


Thu, Aug 23, 2012 : 11:10 a.m.

I can see that the project is "on schedule," which means that those who initially determined the construction schedule are to blame for this poor instance of planning. The garage that was barely ready for the art fair...the bridge that won't be ready for the football season... You know what's odd, is that when they built the additions to Michigan Stadium, *they* were ready for the season. Proper planning?


Thu, Aug 23, 2012 : 7:40 p.m.

You can have it fast, good, or cheap. Pick two.


Thu, Aug 23, 2012 : 3:25 p.m.

I'm a lot more worried about the Ann Arbor people who have to work around it 365 days of the year. Some football fans have to avoid it? Who cares?


Thu, Aug 23, 2012 : 3:05 p.m.

Whine, whine, whine. I for one am grateful that this project got funded and is happening at all. Yes, it's a major pain in the behind, but we were all apprised of the construction schedule well in advance of the bridges closing last year, and there's no point in whining about it now. It's on schedule — be thankful for that.


Thu, Aug 23, 2012 : 3 p.m.

@GoNavy - Every project has three constraints; time, cost, and scope/quality. For the schedule to be shortened to accommodate the football season, one of two things would have to happen. First, they could change the scope of the project. I'm not an engineer, but to replace a bridge would seem to mean that you would replace it with a new bridge. So that's out. The other option would be to increase spending to hire second and third shifts of workers. The last I checked, the Federal Government, the state of Michigan, and the City of Ann Arbor (the three sources of funding for this project) aren't exactly flush with cash. At least not enough to simply make traffic for 4 UofM home football games easier. We'll all survive the construction. It's a minor inconvenience. My compliments to the PM who's project is on schedule 10 months into a 12 month project.


Thu, Aug 23, 2012 : 2:27 p.m.

When people make claims like "this was unavoidable," they are simply not thinking "big picture." I went to the project's website, and it was very transparent and straightforward with regards to all stages of the project - including proposals, design, construction, and timelines for such. It was stated that the project should take "at most" 18 months. However, should this be a 18-month project? In 2004, a fuel tanker crashed on an I-95 overpass in Bridgeport, CT. The ensuing fire created structural weakness in the overpass such that it was rendered "destroyed." That section of I-95 can be considered a "critical" portion of a freeway that links the entire East Coast. The bridge was practically re-built in less than a week. In other words, where there's a will, there's a way. Should I bring up the WTC hole? It was estimated that it would take over a year to clean up, but was completed in just over 9 months without a serious injury. Again, where there's a will, there's a way. Where's the will here? Many of us who live in downtown AA have been seriously inconvenienced by this project, and we're told that "18 months is perfectly acceptable" for completion of the project. Yet here we are, less than a month away from the start of the 2012 football season, and it's not done. Tens of thousands of cars will now be funneled into the "southern maze" of the city, which has not been properly adjusted for detours (anybody who's had to wait 20 minutes to make the left onto Packard from the detour can attest to this). Where's the will? We have the tools and know-how to get this bridge done. The question is: Why wasn't this properly addressed IN THE PLANNING PHASE?

Leah Gunn

Thu, Aug 23, 2012 : 2:25 p.m.

@brimble - as I have said before in pevious discussions about the bridge - the railroad company would not permit an at grade crossing. Since it is private property there is nothing the city could do about that. The bridge is the only alternative.

Jason Colman

Thu, Aug 23, 2012 : 1:46 p.m.

Keep in mind that the bridge was closed on 11/28/11, right after the end of the previous football season. It was a year-long project, or just about, so this is unavoidable.


Thu, Aug 23, 2012 : 1:29 p.m.

One wonders if the engineering for a grade-level railroad crossing and Stadium/State intersection might have been simpler, cheaper, and more quickly accomplished.


Thu, Aug 23, 2012 : 11:51 a.m.

MRunner73- It's not that this project is taking a long projects certainly aren't something to rush. Rather, I noted that the bridge was in fact "on schedule," and it was the project planners who did not foresee the need to set the schedule in such a way as to ensure completion by the start of the 2012 Season.


Thu, Aug 23, 2012 : 11:23 a.m.

This has been quite an engineering project. I am unable to provide you with insight as to why this has taken so long. It is too easy to misinterpret the reasons for a long bridge outage as an excuse. The additions to the stadium only increased seating capacity by a few thousand and it doesn't seem to me that the added traffic volumes are significant because of this.


Thu, Aug 23, 2012 : 10:13 a.m.

Yet another reason to stay home on those Saturdays....