You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Mon, Sep 14, 2009 : 2:30 p.m.

Scio Township residents and officials celebrate reopening of historic East Delhi Bridge

By Ann Dwyer


Sometimes a bridge represents more than just a way to get from one side to the other.

In Scio Township, the nearly 120-year-old East Delhi Bridge also represents four years of hard work for the members of the hamlet west of Ann Arbor, who came together to refurbish the historic truss bridge rather than let it be replaced by a concrete structure. 

On Sunday, the community and government officials who made it possible came together to celebrate their accomplishments.

“(The bridge) galvanized the community, and they went through a process of discovering what they wanted,” said County Commissioner Mark Ouimet, who has his own childhood memories of the bridge.

“It’s one of those times where it’s a better bridge, less expensive bridge, and it’s exactly what the people want.

"It’s not often that government delivers those three things.”

The Washtenaw County Road Commission closed the East Delhi Bridge in June 2005 when it determined the bridge was no longer safe for auto traffic. The plan was to replace it with a concrete two-lane bridge until residents of the community banded together to see that the original structure be refurbished rather than replaced.

“Solving the money problems was the biggest challenge,” said Richard Cook, a member of the East Delhi Bridge Conservancy. “When our state representative (Pam Byrnes) negotiated with the Michigan Department of Transportation to get them to agree federal critical bridge funds could be used for this rehab, that really got the wheels in motion.”

To qualify for that funding, the bridge had to be considered of “historic significance,” according to the road commission. The bridge was first built in the late 19th century, but a tornado in 1917 ripped the structure from its abutments and also destroyed the nearby Delhi Mill. The East Delhi Bridge Conservancy did some research and found that most of the original bridge was used to repair the bridge that stood over the Huron River until 2005.

Once the historical significance was established, the Local Bridge Program (LBP) funding was used to pay 95 percent of the $1.2 million refurbishment. This is the first project in the state to use LBP funds for the rehabilitation of a one-lane bridge, according to the Washtenaw County Road Commission website.

The Road Commission, Scio Township, and the residents covered the other 5 percent of the cost. However, the road commission didn't want to go ahead with the project unless a special assessment could be created to help defray future repairs. To accomplish this, Delhi residents agreed to be taxed an extra $30 per year over the next two decades.
At Sunday’s celebration in Delhi Metropark, the sense of community pride was more than evident. Well-known entertainer Dick Siegal performed with his trio while the Delhi residents shared in a potluck dinner.

State Rep. Pam Byrnes, D-Lyndon Township, who spoke at the dedication ceremony, also  lent a hand in the ribbon-cutting. With all the preparations that went into the celebration, the detail of providing a proper ribbon was overlooked.

But this is a community that finds a way to make things happen, so they improvised with caution tape from the on-site fire truck.

Ann Dwyer is a freelancer for Reach our news desk at or 734-623-2530.