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Posted on Wed, Nov 14, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

Final countdown: New Stadium bridges hours away from opening in Ann Arbor

By Ryan J. Stanton

Related coverage: East Stadium bridges expected to open about 3 p.m. Wednesday


Pedestrians walk on the nearly completed East Stadium Boulevard bridges on Sunday during a special sneak-peek event held for neighbors. The two adjoining spans are expected to open to traffic Wednesday afternoon.

Daniel Brenner I

Following a year of construction and traffic detours, the newly rebuilt East Stadium Boulevard bridges are set to reopen Wednesday afternoon right on schedule.

The opening falls on the exact date Ann Arbor officials had planned on having the bridges open to traffic when construction first started last November.

Michael Nearing, the city's senior project manager, said the city won't be making a big deal out of it when the roadway and bridges open.

"When the roadway reopens, it will be a low-impact, non-event," he said, predicting it will happen quietly sometime in the mid- to late-afternoon.


The nearly completed East Stadium bridge earlier this week.

Daniel Brenner I

Nearing encourages members of the public to check the Stadium bridges project website at for additional information.

The website already has information posted warning that drivers can anticipate single-lane closures between 9 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. on East Stadium Boulevard for the next couple of weeks, but at least one lane of traffic in each direction should be open at all times.

After nearly a year in which there was a concrete pour on site almost every day, crews turned their attention in recent days to marking pavement, installing signs, making sure lights are operational, removing construction materials and debris and completing railing installation. Some remaining work will continue into the spring.

The $22.8 million replacement of the 83-year-old spans over State Street and the adjacent railroad tracks was undertaken with motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians in mind.

Some of the project elements include 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 Street and improved pedestrian access to East Stadium Boulevard via new staircases at State Street.

The staircases feature light posts along the outside edge for enhanced visibility and an internal heating system intended to prevent ice and snow from accumulating on steps. Also on the staircases are raised troughs on each side to facilitate walking bicycles up and down the stairs.

City Council Member Margie Teall, D-4th Ward, helped organize a pre-opening celebration in the Lower Burns Park neighborhood on Sunday where many residents came out and expressed their relief to have the bridge construction and traffic disruptions finally behind them.

Teall said the city is planning a ribbon-cutting ceremony to dedicate the new bridges in the spring when the weather is nicer and after landscaping and other final touches are complete.

Nearing said work that remains to be finished between now and May includes placing permanent pavement markings, completing remaining landscaping and anti-graffiti coating, installing permanent right-of-way monuments and performing a number of routine "punch list" items.


A construction worker walks up the stairs of the nearly completed East Stadium bridge on Tuesday.

Daniel Brenner I

City officials also have talked about doing some sort of public art installation at the Stadium bridges and the nearby area. The project budget for the public art is $360,000.

The Ann Arbor Public Art Commission is seeking qualification statements from artists and submissions are due by Dec. 5, which is an extension from the previous Nov. 30 deadline.

"For the first time, the newly reconstructed bridges connect pedestrians between the boulevard and the bridged street, both major city corridors," the commission's website states. "The redesigned streets and sidewalks have increased the green space at an adjacent park. The goal of the art project is to raise the awareness of multi-modal transportation methods in the area, encourage their safe, complementary use and further the connections between the nearby neighborhoods."

Demolition of the old Stadium bridges began shortly after the University of Michigan's final home football game of the season last November.

For the first five games this year, the bridges were out, which presented a challenge for thousands of fans trying to get to nearby Michigan Stadium. A newly repaved East Stadium Boulevard and the new bridge spans should be open for Saturday's matchup against Iowa, the final home game this year.

U-M spokesman Jim Kosteva said he thinks the construction went exceedingly well and was professionally directed by the city's project management team.

"We appreciated their willingness to work with the university surrounding the daily operations and special activities held in that vicinity over the past year," he said, adding it was a good example of the university and city coordinating efforts. "We also appreciated the patience of our patrons who experienced the anticipated longer wait times to get in and out of the area for events."

The 83-year-old spans were literally crumbling before they were demolished last year to make way for the new spans with added features for pedestrians and bicyclists.

The old bridges carried more than 48,000 vehicles per day on one of the main east-west corridors in Ann Arbor. But from January 2009 until the time they were demolished, traffic was reduced to one lane in each direction after inspections revealed problems with beams underneath.

An engineering firm warned the city in September 2009 it was possible that football-sized chunks of concrete could fall from the bridge, injuring anyone below.

U.S. Rep. John Dingell, D-Dearborn, is given credit for helping Ann Arbor secure a $13.9 million, highly competitive federal grant for the project in late 2010, while $2.9 million came from the state.

With the money the city saved in its street fund by having those grants, the city has been able to pump millions of dollars into dozens of street resurfacing projects. As was always planned, State Street and East Stadium Boulevard were reconstructed in the vicinity of the project this year.

In the most recent project newsletter, officials noted that when motorists drive by they'll notice new LED street lights in the area.

As part of the project, Rose Avenue between State and White streets also has been incorporated as an extension of Rose-White Park and will have new street lights and landscaping.

Nearing said the lights are in the process of being erected and will be up within the next day or two, and the landscaping in the area will be done within the next week or so.

The border area between the park and East Stadium Boulevard also will have a new six-foot-tall wooden fence containing an entrance to the park. That's expected to go up on Wednesday.

Nearing said planting areas adjacent to the new multi-colored retaining walls also will contain many trees and shrubs and that landscaping work is under way.

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.



Wed, Nov 14, 2012 : 11:17 p.m.

A ribbon cutting ceremony in the spring. Uh huh. Does that mean we can drag race across? Maybe?

Andrea Zastrow

Thu, Nov 15, 2012 : 7:19 p.m.

Maybe the shopping cart races could relocate to a new venue.

Cindy Baetz

Wed, Nov 14, 2012 : 8:16 p.m.

The word "they're" in mid-paragraph of my comment should be "their". Hit the post button too soon. Sorry about that.

Cindy Baetz

Wed, Nov 14, 2012 : 8:11 p.m.

So glad to know that the bridges are finally going to open. Not only was the detour an annoyance, but I've had a soft spot for them ever since my grandfather told me that he was on the work crew that first built them. He was 19 years old and had just come to Ann Arbor from Arkansas. So they're a part of my family history. I welcome they're rebirth. Re: the artwork - there are many other places where these thousands of dollars are needed. The bridges are plenty beautiful just as they are. Spend the money on human services where it is so needed.


Wed, Nov 14, 2012 : 8:08 p.m.

Well worth the wait. Congratulations to all involved with special kudos for Michael Nearing and for Congressman Dingell, who not only enabled this project to move forward but, because of his help, allowed for re-surfacing of so many streets that have been badly in needed. Well done!


Wed, Nov 14, 2012 : 5:01 p.m.

Speaking of which, any word on the dead man found in the rolled-over SUV on Plymouth?


Wed, Nov 14, 2012 : 5:01 p.m.

WHOOPS wrong article. Thought I was posting to the 19-year-old crosses the median accident story.

E. Daniel Ayres

Wed, Nov 14, 2012 : 4:13 p.m.

One word: FINALLY!


Wed, Nov 14, 2012 : 6:47 p.m.

Three words: It's About Time!

working poor @ u of m

Wed, Nov 14, 2012 : 3:44 p.m.

Thanks to all the hard working trades that built this new bridge. It's absolutely beautiful!

Christine Moellering

Wed, Nov 14, 2012 : 3:28 p.m.

Party on the new bridge!!!! Oh since that can't happen everyone meet at Ann Arbor Comedy Showcase, tonight, 8pm, $5 show! What a deal!


Wed, Nov 14, 2012 : 3:23 p.m.

The Dewey Street Crypts will not tag it, that is for sure.


Wed, Nov 14, 2012 : 5:02 p.m.

Burns Park Bloods?


Wed, Nov 14, 2012 : 3:17 p.m.

Hopefully the spray paint idiots will leave this alone. I'm not taking bets, though.


Wed, Nov 14, 2012 : 6:46 p.m.

Barzoom, I wouldn't hold my breath.

Andrea Zastrow

Wed, Nov 14, 2012 : 4:12 p.m.

Somebody already tagged under the train bridge part of it already.


Wed, Nov 14, 2012 : 3:10 p.m.

Wow! Kudos to all the workers, planners. Good news...bad news... First the Good: Once, again, cross-town traffic enhancement/improvement & less total driving means less fossil fuels burnt. And the Bad: More wasted art money for "art" based on someone's (someones') opinion. Do we need this? I think not.


Wed, Nov 14, 2012 : 2:36 p.m.

Congrats to all involved - nice job.

Holly Rentschler

Wed, Nov 14, 2012 : 2:36 p.m.

About time this bridge has been fixed! It has been in need of repair/replacement since the mid 1960's. We need to stop giving our roads and bridges a quick lick and a promise that someday it will be properly repaired or replaced.

Bob W

Wed, Nov 14, 2012 : 2:31 p.m.

Raised troughs on the stairs for bikes... nice touch. Glad it 's finished, just hope the taggers stay away from it lest it become the biggest eye sore in the city.


Wed, Nov 14, 2012 : 2:21 p.m.

How are they heating the steps? Solar, like the new parking meters downtown?


Wed, Nov 14, 2012 : 2:12 p.m.

Tonight, after work, I am going to turn the corner off of Park Pl. onto Stadium and floor it! I am so excited! The bridge looks awesome. ~Daisy Duke.


Wed, Nov 14, 2012 : 2:47 p.m.

I'll be right behind you. In fact, I may take the afternoon off and sit and wait for them to open it.

Sam Smith

Wed, Nov 14, 2012 : 2:05 p.m.

Wow, this is wonderful for A2. We need more cities getting government support to rebuilt unsafe bridges.


Wed, Nov 14, 2012 : 1:59 p.m.

Let's save that $360K for art and use it for something useful, eh?


Wed, Nov 14, 2012 : 7:09 p.m.

Yeah, how about more roads? If it's one thing communities in this region need, it's giving everyone additional incentives to overuse an outmoded, wasteful, and inefficient means of transportation. No need to beautify, restore, or mitigate environmental impacts if we pave everything! Public art is no way for Ann Arbor to compete with the prosperous communities seen everywhere else in southeast MI.

say it plain

Wed, Nov 14, 2012 : 3:27 p.m.

That's a very good point. It will be beyond silly if they work out a way to interpret the vote as an endorsement of the current skimming system! I actually voted *for* the proposal because I am in favor of some public spending on art, but not the current skimming scheme, which bypasses the will of the people and seems unethical if not clearly illegal. But when I think about how terrible the roads are near the nice new bridge I want *no* money from any road repair 'bucket' to be used for anything other than road maintenance/repair! Miller and Ann Arbor Saline are spouting new potholes and we're not even at the start of pothole season!


Wed, Nov 14, 2012 : 2:05 p.m.

Speaking of which, now that the voters have clearly indicated their opinion of taxpayer-funded art shouldn't council get on with terminating the "1% skim for art"? What are they waiting for? Or are they leaving that for the next council?


Wed, Nov 14, 2012 : 1:50 p.m.

No official time was given. One poster remarks @ 8:30 AM that they are already opened. I am confused, unless I walk or jog over there in the next hour. Please clear up the official time, whether past, present or hours from now (9ish AM).

Unusual Suspect

Wed, Nov 14, 2012 : 1:30 p.m.

I'll wait for the predictable "Final countdown: New Stadium bridges minutes away from opening in Ann Arbor" and "New Stadium bridges opened minutes ago" stories to comment. Oops, too late.


Wed, Nov 14, 2012 : 4:06 p.m.

I checked it myself at 9:30 AM. The bridges were closed to traffic and pedestians. It appears that the road will not be ready before at least noon.


Wed, Nov 14, 2012 : 1:27 p.m.

All this for 22.8 million and the library board wanted to spend 65 million on a new library.


Wed, Nov 14, 2012 : 1:20 p.m.

Think of all that bare-naked concrete. Any truth to the rumor that spray paint sales are soaring all over town?

Ann English

Thu, Nov 15, 2012 : 12:26 a.m.

But the article mentioned "graffiti-resistant coating."


Wed, Nov 14, 2012 : 6:44 p.m.

nick, it wouldn't surprise's THAT for public art?!


Wed, Nov 14, 2012 : 1:03 p.m.

A suggestion, can we take the public art money and repave the stretch from Main to the bridge? That area is in horrible disrepair. One other comment, I realize that this project was large in scale and scope and it is great that they are finishing on time. I am curious as to why the job didn't finish earlier given the warmer and drier than normal weather for much of the project timeline (particularly last winter). Were there no early completion bonuses built in? I am certainly grateful it is done, and done on time rather than delayed, but weather delays are usually built in to the projected completion date. From an outsider's view it would seem weather delays were minimal relative to a realistic projection of delays. If anyone can enlighten me, I'd appreciate it.


Wed, Nov 14, 2012 : 1:01 p.m.

On-time and on-budget are phrases used all too rarely in infrastructure projects. Kudos to the City engineers and staff who made those things happen. Just please finish the job with the roadway between the bridges and Main -- and don't close that altogether in the process!


Wed, Nov 14, 2012 : 12:46 p.m.

All this for one train per day? Could have been changed to a grade crossing years ago for a fraction of the cost of the bridge that Dingell built.


Wed, Nov 14, 2012 : 7:53 p.m.

This was mentioned months ago. The railroad nixed the grade crossing. Wasn't going to happen.


Wed, Nov 14, 2012 : 6:02 p.m.

Putting in a grade crossing would mean another traffic light really close to both the Stadium-Industrial light and the State-Stimson street light. I'd think it'd be difficult to coordinate that triangle of intersections to keep traffic moving, especially at rush hour.


Wed, Nov 14, 2012 : 2:34 p.m.

The grade crossing was an afterthought and given only 10 seconds of thought. It was the logical and least expensive alternative but not wanted by the powers to be. As we know, common sense rarely makes sense in Ann Arbor.


Wed, Nov 14, 2012 : 2:13 p.m.

The grade crossing idea was considered, and rightly discarded for several reasons. New bridges were the only logical solution.

Unusual Suspect

Wed, Nov 14, 2012 : 1:39 p.m.

Stadium Blvd crosses the railroad at one end of what is technically a freight yard (Ferry Yard), and you don't build crossings in freight yards because railroads park rail cars in them, sometimes for days or weeks at a time. This yard is at one end of this railroad's line (it changes to the Great Lakes Central just north of town), and although they don't use it very often at the moment, if their business picked up they could start to use it more.

Linda Peck

Wed, Nov 14, 2012 : 12:25 p.m.

I just want to go and drive on it now. Non-event? Not to me!

Urban Sombrero

Wed, Nov 14, 2012 : 12:05 p.m.

Yay! No more detour to and from work!