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Posted on Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 5:58 a.m.

Construction ahead: Ann Arbor officials set to break ground on Stadium bridges project

By Ryan J. Stanton

After years of waiting, and a period when there were concerns that football-sized chunks of concrete might fall on drivers, reconstruction of the Stadium bridges is really happening.

Ann Arbor officials plan to hold a ceremonial groundbreaking at 10 a.m. Monday near the site of the $22.8 million project, where State Street passes under East Stadium Boulevard.

Expected to attend are U.S. Rep. John Dingell, Michigan Department of Transportation Director Kirk Steudle and Russell Jorgensen of the Federal Highway Administration.

State Street will be temporarily closed in both directions at the site, perhaps a warmup exercise for the longer road closures and detours expected to start next week.


Officials gather near the Stadium bridge span over State Street in October 2010 as federal funding is announced for the reconstruction. It's expected to be a similar scene on Monday as the city ceremonially breaks ground.

Ryan J. Stanton |

Senior project manager Michael Nearing and contractor Parsons Brinckerhoff have been meeting and working with businesses to minimize disruptions during construction.

Stadium Boulevard is expected to be closed to vehicular and pedestrian traffic starting Nov. 28 through December 2012.

State Street is expected to be closed Nov. 28 through Dec. 13 this year in the vicinity of the project. That's when crews will demolish the bridge span there and install new sewer.

The city has created a website with project information, including detour maps. The address for the site is

Homayoon Pirooz, head of the city's project management unit, said there might be traffic issues early on, but he thinks motorists will catch on quickly.

"It is not unusual to have a few weeks of some traffic backups here and there until everyone gets used to the new detours, but we will have detours set up," he said. "And after the first few weeks, we're hoping people will get to know where they are and it won't be too bad."

Pirooz noted there was a similar detour plan in place two years ago when the city removed a portion of the crumbling bridge span over State Street.

"We had the same detour in place, and we had it in place for three or four days, and we didn't notice any serious problems," he said.

But having East Stadium Boulevard closed for more than a year is going to be different, Pirooz acknowledged. It's a major east-west corridor in Ann Arbor, and it's a vital link to the University of Michigan football stadium and Pioneer High School.

Motorists are just going to have to adapt to alternate routes, Pirooz said, and that goes for many football fans starting next fall.

"We are taking the westbound approach to the stadium out of the system," he said. "But since there's plenty of time, both us and U of M have been working for better planning for the next football season, and hopefully by the time we get there, we'll have everything under control."


Ann Arbor officials inspect the Stadium bridges last year with federal officials.

Ryan J. Stanton |

Mayor John Hieftje recalled the reconstruction of the Broadway bridges in 2003 and 2004 and said he thinks the Stadium bridges project will go smoother from a traffic standpoint.

"People got used to it pretty quickly and there were probably fewer ways around it than there are around Stadium bridges," he said of the Broadway bridges project. "You had to go to the Fuller bridge to get over (the Huron River) and that was it."

The long-awaited Stadium bridges project includes removal and replacement of the existing bridge spans over State Street and the nearby Ann Arbor Railroad tracks, staircase construction at State Street, pedestrian tunnel extensions, installation of retaining walls, replacement of storm sewer and water main, and enhancements to Rose White Park.

Stadium will be reconstructed from Kipke Drive to South Industrial Highway and State will be reconstructed from Henry Street to Rose Avenue.

City officials said this past week the bridge span over State Street and the adjacent span over the Ann Arbor Railroad tracks both were built in 1928. The city previously believed the span over State was built in 1917.

Since January 2009, traffic has been reduced to one lane in each direction on the north side of the bridge after an inspection revealed problems with at least one of the beams.

The city received a $13.9 million federal grant for the project, plus another $2.9 million in grant funding from the state.

City officials have pointed out the project includes improved sight distances, the addition of on-street bike lanes, sidewalks on both sides of the road, improved street lighting, greater vertical and horizontal clearances for both bridge spans, construction of a sidewalk on the west side of State and improved pedestrian access to Stadium via new staircases at State.

The upgrades at Rose White Park, as well as landscaping and site restoration, are expected to happen between summer and fall 2012.

The project completion date is May 30, 2013.


A look at detours that will be in effect during the Stadium bridges project.

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 e-mail newsletters.


L. C. Burgundy

Mon, Nov 21, 2011 : 4:52 p.m.

Stadium will be reconstructed from Kipke Drive to South Industrial Highway and State will be reconstructed from Henry Street to Rose Avenue. ---- They're seriously not going to reconstruct State the extra few feet to Stimson? The pavement from Henry to Stimson is in terrible condition - what exactly is the benefit of leaving a small block of a road that is basically trashed in place between two newly reconstructed portions?

Kai Petainen

Mon, Nov 21, 2011 : 4:52 a.m.

this is fantastic news. i'm glad that they're going to fix it. yes!

Usual Suspect

Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 7:13 p.m.

My questions are: (1) Who's job is it to monitor City-owned structures going forward from now, and (2) What other City-owned structures out there are currency experience a lack of maintenance and are headed for this same fate in the future? In other words, how can the citizens feel assured that the lessons have been learned and are being applied? Didn't we go through this 20 years ago? I remember beams at the Maynard St parking structure being held up by wood posts, I believe because cement was not maintained and moisture found its way through the cement to the steel beams and corroded them.


Mon, Nov 21, 2011 : 7:33 a.m.

yeah, that bridge is the oldest of it's kind in Ann Arbor. The only one older is the Foster Bridge at Huron River Drive, spanning the Huron River; which is a metal truss bridge. It was built around 1876 and rehabilitated around 2003. It was a simple metal truss bridge kit, cost $525,000. to rehabilitate and took 5 1/2 months to do the work. Seems to me that this project isn't unrealistic, timewise, when compared with that project. And another thing, the freeway in Oakland didn't involve much re-landscaping as this project apparently will. It will be a better, wider, safer bridge to carry us for the next 100 years. Deal with it.


Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 6:49 p.m.

How did fixing a broken bridge become cause for a ceremonial ground breaking? I'm sorry, but this is silly pomp and circumstance over fixing a dilapidated old bridge that was left to rot for far too long. Really, how embarrassing. Move along, get to work, nothing to see here.


Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 11:44 p.m.

They like patting themselves on the back at taxpayer expense. Pomp and Circumstance.


Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 6:06 p.m.

When the Oakland bridge collapsed during the earthquake, a bridge builder by the name of C.C. Myers replaced it in about 45 days or so. Should have sent him the bid, if there was a bid process.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 7:20 p.m.

". . . thanks to financial incentives for early" So, the very people who complain about the cost of the bridge repair apparently want to spend more. I guess some level of intellectual consistency from subject to subject is too much to ask. GN&GL

Usual Suspect

Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 7:08 p.m.

The Oakland bridge also had to be taken down. it didn't completely fall down. Part of it did and the rest had to be demolished. Snapshot made a very good point. That bridge was rebuilt very quickly, thanks to financial incentives for early (and proper) completion.


Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 6:32 p.m.

You do understand there are differences in what is being done? Do you realize the bridge is not collapsed. That means the bridge will need to be taken down. I would prefer the bridge come down in a systematic orderly fashion as opposed to an earthquake turning it into rubble. Here is some info on another bridge in the Oakland earthquake &quot;The eastern span replacement of the San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge has been under construction since 2002. Originally scheduled to open in 2007, it is now scheduled to open to traffic in 2013 at an estimated cost of $6.3 billion&quot; <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> There is also a cost factor involved. I am sure the project could be done in 30 days if people wanted to pay for it. I guess we could throw billions of dollars at it

hut hut

Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 5:07 p.m.

Do it once. Do it right. Pay the price now or cry later. Move on.


Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 4:24 p.m.

I live very close to these bridges, and I'm glad they are being worked on. I also don't think the inconvenience will be that big. I won't use the given detours though, and use my own routes. I also get why this will take so long. Basically the whole area is going to be relandscaped, road widened, and an intersection changed. I also suspect that they will get done before December 2012. I'm for this, especially in the name of safety.


Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 4:14 p.m.

Yes, it takes a long time to get bridges built. The one thing I am concerned with is that we are going to have a rather nasty winter. I hope that the workers are going to be OK.


Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 3:55 p.m.

Sounds as if a few people should have attended public meetings on the project. Then at least, opinions might be of the informed variety. No time? The ship has sailed without the benefit of...


Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 3:20 p.m.

I can understand officials trying to put a positive spin on this. BUT this is going to be a major (but necessary) headache for those in that part of town. If the companies doing the work would put on the needed manpower it COULD be done sooner. For those of you thinking I am an uninformed novice, I was I supervised many commercial building projects for 30 years. But companies mow try to do the same work with 1/2 the personnel.


Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 3:55 p.m.

@ERMG I agree that the extra cost for that would outweigh the cost in terms of time spent sitting with cars idling and all of the other factors and inconveniences. Some of the road construction that goes on never seems to have a full compliment of workers.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 3:31 p.m.

@jcj: We seldom agree, but this is a fair question. This is a major artery for the city. The work on this ought be 24/7 until it is done. Don't understand why it is not. GN&amp;GL


Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 3:21 p.m.

Guess I need to look up at the screen before hitting submit! I did much better building things than typing.


Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 3:20 p.m.

it's about time

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 3:17 p.m.

Note to the nattering nabobs of negativism: Every major road project in the country--EVERY ONE--relies on federal dollars. Don't like it? Fine. Be prepared for local taxes to go up to cover the costs. Oh, never mind that last point. I forgot that the nattering nabobs of negativism on usually are conservatives who expect all levels of government to perform miracles at the same time they try to starve those governments of tax revenue. PS: before someone accuses me of stealing the Ed Vielmenti's phrase &quot;nattering nabobs of negativism&quot;, I suggest you learn some history. It was a phrase coined by speechwriter William Safire and used by VP Spiro Agnew in 1970. It is one of the most famous turns of phrase in American history. Oh, what a little education might do for some. Good Night and Good Luck

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Mon, Nov 21, 2011 : 12:16 p.m.

@Silly: 1) Find me one MAJOR road repair or expansion project in the last decade in Washtenaw County--just one--that has not relied on federal dollars 2) Yes, with federal $ come federal rules. Don't like those rules? Raise local taxes and pay for road repair locally. Yeah, that'll never happen. Nope--the nattering nabobs of negativism want their roads repaired, don't want federal $ to do it, but don't want their taxes raised, either. 3) Given that Michigan's roads tend to fall apart soon after repair, one wonders what would happen without those federal rules, which set a minimum standard. Ohio and Indiana, by contrast, have much better roads and operate under the same rules. GN&amp;GL

Silly Sally

Mon, Nov 21, 2011 : 12:01 p.m.

&quot;Every major road project in the country--EVERY ONE--relies on federal dollars.&quot; Mr. &quot;Ghost&quot;, go talk to an Ann Arbor or Washtenaw County traffic engineer. Not all rely on federal money. Sure many do, but those that do not are a joy for these engineers since they have fewer regulations to follow. It is these regulations that raise the costs, plus the availability of federal money that encourage locals to embellish their projects, raising the costs. This federal money eventually comes from local taxpayers in Ann Arbor, but with strings attached, and we do not get all of it back. It is not efficient. We should have higher local taxes and lower federal taxes. We can prevent wasteful spending locally, or at least be aware of it. When it is done in other areas with our money, such as similar wasteful projects in Alabama or a &quot;bridge to nowhere&quot; in Alaska, we cannot. Projects such as that bridge to nowhere or the Dingelsoarous Bridge over State Street are prime examples of why federal money is bad.


Mon, Nov 21, 2011 : 7:12 a.m.

hit 'em where it hurts Ed. Right in their little mustard seed of a mind. You've got 'em confused now. They don't need any education. That's for them there liberals.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 7:53 p.m.

You, then, apparently are smarter than the usual &quot;usual suspect.&quot; GN&amp;GL

Usual Suspect

Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 7:19 p.m.

Everybody knows neither of you made it up. We've all made enough trips around the sun to be able to recognize an overused cliche when we see one.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 7:14 p.m.

@usual suspect: I suggest you read ENTIRELY my post. Many of the nattering nabobs of negativism credit Mr. Vielmenti with coining the phrase and that I stole it from him, which is what my post clearly implies---that is were one to actually READ and COMPREHEND my post. LOL @Craig: These bridges are, as I recall, 50 or 60 years old. There was a major effort to repair them in the mid- to late-80s. At some point, major repairs are throwing good money after bad, especially as local budgets get stretched more and more thinly. Again, don't like that basic fact? I urge you, then, to take the lead in getting the State of Michigan to permit local governments to raise taxes as they see fit to pay for such projects. GN&amp;GL

Usual Suspect

Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 7:05 p.m.

&quot;PS: before someone accuses me of stealing the Ed Vielmenti's phrase &quot;nattering nabobs of negativism&quot;, I suggest you learn some history. It was a phrase coined by speechwriter William Safire and used by VP Spiro Agnew in 1970. It is one of the most famous turns of phrase in American history.&quot; Uh, yeah... we all thought you made that up.

Craig Lounsbury

Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 6:56 p.m.

a bridge should NEVER get the point where lanes have to be closed for safety purposes. Furthermore the fact that said bridge is a par 4 from the largest football stadium in America, and one of only 4 routes to that stadium with 100,000+ fans showing up makes it even less acceptable.

John B.

Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 6:30 p.m.



Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 3:17 p.m.

Push a button and watch the bridge fall down. I hate to say it this is going to be a nightmare for traffic. They are already putting signs up on S Industrial and getting ready, but still, so glad I don't have to be in that area anymore. Good luck Ann Arbor you are creating massive headaches. I just got an email from AAPS. They are telling us they going to be adding two more school buses so that the children are not late to school and don't have to figure out how to walk thru that mess.


Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 3:11 p.m.

Let's OCCUPY the bridge and let Dingell know that his out of control spending fetish has destroyed this country. Bring ripe vegetables!


Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 3:17 p.m.

Now that would be worth watching.

Urban Sombrero

Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 2:23 p.m.

Why is the project slated to take so long? There have to be quicker, more efficient ways to do this, without sacrificing safety, strength or structural integrity. Almost a year and a half of it being out of commission? That's insane. I'm glad it's finally getting done but it's going to be a huge pain in the neck for people who use that route daily. And, I'm sure, for people living adjacent to the area.


Mon, Nov 21, 2011 : 7:07 a.m.

Sombrero, you still aren't listening. The bridge is not going to take a year and a half, the WHOLE project will. That includes the work done on the nearby park, the added lighting, the pedestrian walkways and other parts of the package. Nowhere does it say that the bridgework itself is going to take that long. Or didn't you read and absorb what Johnnya2 told you? Re-read the article if you need to.

Urban Sombrero

Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 11:15 p.m.

Thanks for the extended rant, though. It was quite a laugh to read.

Urban Sombrero

Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 11:14 p.m.

&quot;State Street is expected to be closed Nov. 28 through Dec. 13 this year in the vicinity of the project.&quot; &quot; The project completion date is May 30, 2013.&quot; Last time I checked, November of this year until May of 2013 is a year and a half.


Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 3:15 p.m.

Where do you get a year and a half from? &quot;Stadium Boulevard is expected to be closed to vehicular and pedestrian traffic starting Nov. 28 through December 2012.&quot; That would be at most 13 months, but realistically a year. Yes, there will be other parts of the project that will be taken care of in the following months, but those are things like adding lights etc. It really is boring to hear the whiners on here. Why did it take so long? Because these same whiners arent willing to pay more in taxes. The city got money from the federal government. These are the people who want EVERYTHING immediately. Short term pain for long term gain. A leader who was only thinking about the next election would demand the project start NOW. Those that think about the future and what is best for the long haul did this properly. Could it be done cheaper? Sure. Everything could be done cheaper. Again, these are short sighted people, One of the major flaws in thinking in the entire state is doing things cheaper means it will be better. When you buy clothes do you buy the cheapest? I prefer to buy those that will last longer. When you buy cars do you always go for the cheapest? If most people did Yugo would have been the number one selling brand in America.

Craig Lounsbury

Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 1:57 p.m.

I was about to say essentially the same thing when I read Diagenes' comment. If they can't help themselves at least where a mask to the &quot;event&quot;


Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 1:46 p.m.

The people who are attending this fiasco should hang their heads in shame over this project. Real Leaders would not have let this go on for as long as it has. This bridge is a prime example of the failure of leadeship on all levels. Finally doing something about it is little reason to celebrate, and take a victory bow.

Chip Reed

Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 3:05 p.m.

They never fixed it before because there was hope (in some circles) of making a highway from I-94 into downtown along either Main, State, or the railroad tracks. They didn't want to fix it and then have to re-do it, later.

Craig Lounsbury

Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 2:20 p.m.

well said

Jim Osborn

Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 1:27 p.m.

This project seems very expensive, and lengthy. If federal money were not involved, I wonder if a less expensive and quicker alternative would have been done. I've wondered why the existing steel span could not be removed and then replaced with a new span and roadway, using the existing cement support structures on each side. It was the span that was bad, not the surrounding supporting part. If done this way, after completing one side, the other could be done, never closing Stadium to traffic. This will take a year to complete? After earthquakes in Loa Angeles in 1994, they rebuild a 3-mile span of 10 -lane freeway bridges in 60 days. Why is the Congressman involved, making a big deal out of returning a portion of our federal tax money, with all of the federal restrictions that raise the cost.

Silly Sally

Mon, Nov 21, 2011 : 12:09 p.m.

A better example is placing new tires on an old car Done every day. Especially if mommy and daddy are not paying for it. Roman cement works have lasted over 2,000 years. A big reason for new cement support base at State St is that the opening at State street is narrow, so the silly mayor cannot have his bicycle lanes without new cement support structures. Get real $18 million? So silly! What was the original cost? $18 thousand?


Mon, Nov 21, 2011 : 7 a.m.

The existing cement support structures are degraded as well and are falling apart. Would you put your old worn out tires on a new vehicle? I bet not; wouldn't be safe. Better to rebuild the whole thing than to put a new structure on a questionable base. That's just common sense.

John B.

Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 6:29 p.m.

Would you rather pay the $18 Million yourself, in a Tax? Yeah, I thought not.


Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 5:18 p.m.

Dingell got involved right before the 2010 election, as it happens. he promised us a bridge so we'd vote for him. and he won. yes, one wonders how quickly and cheaply it could be done if we weren't being given federal &quot;stimulus&quot; money for it...


Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 3:19 p.m.

Remember that guy who took out that bridge in Detroit? Big explosion? Bridge went up in less then 6 months. Go figure why Ann Arbor needs the 13 month drama to build a bridge when I can be down by September. Interesting.


Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 3:17 p.m.

I agree, it seems long. But, the weather in LA is a bit more forgiving. I suspect little may be done late Dec through early March because of construction difficulties with freezing temperatures. No doubt other infrastructure issues are also being addressed: did you notice the laundry list of sub-projects--pedestrian walkways, enhanced lighting, sewage lines, water mains, raised road clearance, Rose Park enhancement.


Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 3:12 p.m.

Amen. Let the US Army rebuild that bridge. It could be done in less than 48 hours.


Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 11:51 a.m.

Thanks for waiting until after football season!

Billy Bob Schwartz

Mon, Nov 21, 2011 : 12:43 a.m.

110,000 people is still 110,000 people. It will be a problem for all games next year. Good luck, all.


Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 7:29 p.m.

More home games this year (8) than next year (6).* The first two (Sept 8th and 15th) are Air Force &amp; U Mass, which shouldn't be too much of a stress on traffic. Then the next home game isn't until Oct. 13th (Illinois). Michigan State is Oct. 20th, but the hope would be that they'd be done by then... *<a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 3:20 p.m.

They gave you a break. It is next season that is going to be very interesting.