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 Tue, May 14, 2013 : 12:33 p.m.

New Stadium bridges in Ann Arbor dedicated with special thanks to John Dingell

By Ryan J. Stanton

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood had just one suggestion for Ann Arbor officials as they ceremonially dedicated the new East Stadium Boulevard bridges on Tuesday.

"I do think the name 'John Dingell' would look very good on this bridge," he said with a smile. "I really do … so, mayor, I don't know how you make that happen, but I think it's a good idea."

Moments later, Mayor John Hieftje and other city officials gathered to unveil a bronze plaque affixed to the side of the bridge at State Street, giving special thanks to Dingell for his assistance in obtaining nearly $14 million in highly competitive federal grant funding for the project back in 2010.


Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood greets U.S. Rep. John Dingell, D-Dearborn, as Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje looks on before a dedication ceremony for the Stadium Bridges project on Tuesday.

Melanie Maxwell I

"The truth is this never would have happened — the construction of this bridge, which was in very, very bad disrepair, would have never happened without John Dingell," LaHood said.

"That's what having a good representative in Congress means. That's what having somebody who has a loud voice means when it comes to getting projects done."

In addition to recognizing Dingell, the plaque includes the names of the 11 Ann Arbor City Council members who were in office when the project was approved.

"This was, as you can tell, a project that turned out well," Hieftje said. "I thought it was spectacular, given what a busy road this is, that it was completed in one year."

The $22.8 million replacement of the 83-year-old spans over State Street and the adjacent railroad tracks began in November 2011. The new bridges opened to traffic in November 2012.

Ann Arbor received $13.9 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation and about $2.9 million from the state to cover nearly three quarters of the cost. The remaining funds came from various city sources, including the city's street and bridge resurfacing and reconstruction millage.

LaHood said Dingell called him about replacing the deteriorated Stadium bridge spans on more than one occasion, and Dingell sent him pictures to further make the case.

"He made it clear to me that of all the important projects — all the important infrastructure in his district — this was No.1. This was the bridge that had to get fixed," LaHood said.

"This bridge is an economic corridor," LaHood added. "It will bring people to the community. It will be an opportunity for people to have a safe structure. Obviously the other structure was not safe."

Following LaHood's suggestion to make sure Dingell's name appeared on the bridge somewhere, the longtime congressman shouted in jest: "I didn't put him up to this!"

Dingell said he avoided driving over the Stadium bridges for years in their deteriorated condition and it's only now that the two spans have been rebuilt that he'll drive over them again.

"I didn't like the idea of driving across a bridge and looking down and seeing people walking around underneath me," he said, referring to the fact that portions of the bridge had been removed over State Street to reduce the risk of football-sized chunks of concrete falling below.

Hieftje said because the city saved nearly $17 million in local street millage dollars by securing grant dollars, the city has been able to ramp up repairs of admittedly tattered city streets.

Four artists from across the country are now competing for a potentially $360,000 contract from the city to create a new public art installation at the site of the Stadium bridges.

Aaron Seagraves, the city's public art administrator, said the artists will be presenting their proposals at 2 p.m. June 7 at a meeting taking place inside the council chambers inside city hall.

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, May 15, 2013 : 11:36 p.m.

The sign should have said, " Our thanks the the taxpayers of the USA, even though you own $16.7 trillion dollars, you generously saved the taxpayers of Ann Arbor from having to live up to their responsibility to pay for a new bridge."


Wed, May 15, 2013 : 5:35 p.m.

This was also in the article: "Four artists from across the country are now competing for a potentially $360,000 contract from the city to create a new public art installation at the site of the Stadium bridges." Again, I thought the citizens had voted down tax money for public art?


Wed, May 15, 2013 : 2:59 p.m.

Ok, we will first admit that it's a good thing this bridge was fixed and it appears the project went well once it began. The problem is with the inefficient allocation of resources in the first place. Citizens of local communities send a big chunk of tax dollars to the Federal government, and then they have to petition (or beg) the Feds through their congressional representative to get a little of it back through grants. Thus funding decisions are made by centralized bureaucrats in D.C. rather than local officials who are close to the problems, resulting in haphazard allocations of resources that may or may not represent the most urgent use, and frequently are just favors to political supporters. This bridge was decaying for years and was a real public safety threat. But apparently there wasn't enough political benefit to anyone to get it fixed before now. Dingell finally got off his butt and pulled the necessary strings, but he's just doing what politicians do. And it's neither a Republican or Democrat thing - both parties have consistently been putting everything in the hands of the Feds for decades while diminishing local resources.


Wed, May 15, 2013 : 12:10 p.m.

I am thrilled that there will be light traffic on this bridge, as I suspect many of our posters will REFUSE to drive on this bridge, not only due to it's being built by the government but also because of whom it was dedicated to. (I also expect these posters to not use I-94 west of Ann Arbor, because that was paved with "Obama money". ) Or, will they donate some extra money to the City each time they use it to defray the cost to the non-A2 Taxpayers? More room for me!


Wed, May 15, 2013 : 11:42 a.m.

Funny how the camera works. In person, Dingell looks younger and Heiftje looks older. Maybe it's their haircuts?


Wed, May 15, 2013 : 11:01 a.m.

We all should all be so grateful that the government is looking out for us by providing the tax dollars we gave them so they can asure we have roads to drive on. I'm so grateful.

Jay Thomas

Wed, May 15, 2013 : 3:17 a.m.

Some of these same people are the ones that let the bridge crumble to the point that a major city artery was closed off. We have nothing to thank them for. Sorry.

Kai Petainen

Wed, May 15, 2013 : 1:32 a.m.

Question -- I presume people voted my comment down as I thanked the mayor and Dingell ... .... if they weren't the ones to thank, then who should be thanked?

Kai Petainen

Thu, May 16, 2013 : 3:39 a.m.

Steve, Thanks for your response. I like that answer. I get the feeling that city hall staff doesn't get thanked enough for the work that they do -- and they should be thanked. Now I wish I could vote my own comment down and vote yours higher as I like your answer more.


Wed, May 15, 2013 : 4:47 p.m.

How about the tax payers? The mayor and Dingle where only doing their jobs, which they should be thanking us for hiring them. Now if they spent money out of their own pockets we'd be thanking them, but that isn't the case.

Steve Bean

Wed, May 15, 2013 : 1:43 p.m.

City staff, who did the actual work of applying for the grant money, etc. and had no photo ops. I suppose you could thank the contractors as well, since they did the project work.

Usual Suspect

Tue, May 14, 2013 : 10:32 p.m.

Wow, such a big crowd.

Kai Petainen

Tue, May 14, 2013 : 9:42 p.m.

I believe in voicing complaints, but I also believe in voicing thanks and congrats. Thanks to the mayor and Dingell for getting this bridge made.... good stuff.


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 7:37 p.m.

So, we couldn't have done it without the political intervention of Dindell. Need had nothing to do with it. Great! Dingell.

craig stolefield

Tue, May 14, 2013 : 6:23 p.m.

Hmmm, I recall the bridge was finished early because of the good weather last year and it came in right on budget.

Dog Guy

Tue, May 14, 2013 : 6:04 p.m.

The Washington $17M was what politicians call tithing.


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 5:50 p.m.

Over budget and took longer than promised, excellent work gentlemen.


Wed, May 15, 2013 : 12:03 p.m.

Wow. A simple search on the computer could have informed your post, Sir or Madam. Ignorance is no way to run a a republic. "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. 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.", Nov 14 2012, By Ryan J. Stanton Political Reporter Thanks, Ryan.

Ryan J. Stanton

Tue, May 14, 2013 : 8:13 p.m.

Actually it was right on time and on budget.


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 5:22 p.m.

I have just one suggestion for AA officials. Finish paving Stadium for the stretch from the bridge to Main St. Why in the world that stretch of disaster wasn't included in this project is perplexing. Is this on the city's radar for completion anytime soon? Otherwise, the new bridge is wonderful.


Wed, May 15, 2013 : 8:26 p.m.

When the national government passes out grants to fund road construction, localities will delay repairing roads with urgent need of repair so they can acquire federal funding for them. Think about all the federally funded road construction/repair going on nationwide, how much it costs, how many layers of bureaucracy it takes to decide which projects to fund first. Who wins and who loses? Localities with friends in high USDOT positions likely do better than average, most places probably aren't noticeably underfunded compared to everywhere else, but where is the problem if states and communities were responsible for funding their own roads? If Ann Arbor didn't know it could get federal funding to pave the rest of Stadium Blvd in 2016 I'm sure they would've included it in the bridge project. There's no accountability for the delay in fixing the holes in our roads. Local officials say "it's not our fault, the feds won't give us any money". Feds say "We just gave you money to pay for that bridge, get to the back of the line."

Ryan J. Stanton

Tue, May 14, 2013 : 5:41 p.m.


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 5:11 p.m.

"In addition to recognizing Dingell, the plaque includes the names of the 11 Ann Arbor City Council members who were in office when the project was approved" Can I vomit now?


Wed, May 15, 2013 : 6:09 p.m.

@DJ, where also is "mole"?


Wed, May 15, 2013 : 11:24 a.m.

Where is SAES when we need him?

Usual Suspect

Tue, May 14, 2013 : 11:52 p.m.

Serious question; can you think of anywhere else in the US where this sort of thing would be done? Where a mayor and city council would think so much of themselves that they enshrine themselves in this way?

Top Cat

Tue, May 14, 2013 : 5:09 p.m.

What if they gave a dedication and nobody came. Just the usual suspects mugging for the camera.

Larry Ryan

Tue, May 14, 2013 : 5:06 p.m.

Well Done! Now if the city can just catch up the local roads. It is true that most local road projects are funded with state money and the state has cut way back. And the city did spend a bunch last year after they didn't have to pay for the bridges all on their own but more needs to be done! They have a pretty aggressive plan underway again this summer if you have been following it here so things are getting better. We are just going to have to put up with all the orange barrels... I say it's worth it to get better roads!

Craig Lounsbury

Tue, May 14, 2013 : 5:05 p.m.

Other than politicians and news media how many people showed up?


Wed, May 15, 2013 : 11:24 a.m.

I was there, and I am neither politician nor media. Just happened to be passing by and I could see something was up.


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 4:58 p.m.

Absolutely let's heap the accolades on the good Congressman since He built the bridge himself using his own money.


Wed, May 15, 2013 : 11:58 a.m.

Did Ronald Reagan build the Washington National Airport, the Ronald Reagan California Republican Center, Ronald Reagan Community Center, Ronald Reagan State Office Building, Ronald Reagan Elementary School, Bakersfield, California, Ronald Reagan Elementary School in Chowchilla, California, Ronald Reagan Freeway or any of other hundreds of buildings named after him? Did George Washington build the spire that holds His Name? Did Eisenhower lay a single stretch of concrete on the Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways (started by His predecessor)?

Jay Thomas

Wed, May 15, 2013 : 3:14 a.m.

When John is a hundred he will still be appropriating money for the people... or from the people... whichever it is.


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 5:31 p.m.

Sadly your perception of the duties of a congressman seem to be shared by the majority of voters. As long as you manage to get people who don't even live here to pay for a replacement for a bridge that was neglected for decades by a city that is far better off then most financially speaking, then it's all good. Meanwhile every taxpayer in this city is paying for a billion dollars a day in debt service of over 16 trillion.

average joe

Tue, May 14, 2013 : 5:08 p.m.

Actually, he was only doing what he was put into office to do, and no one needs a bridge with his name on it for performing his job.

Steve Bean

Tue, May 14, 2013 : 4:51 p.m.

Oh boy. The regulars are going to have fun with this one. Good to see you back in action, Ryan.

Kai Petainen

Tue, May 14, 2013 : 9:51 p.m.

lol... I like Ryan's response to this one.

Ryan J. Stanton

Tue, May 14, 2013 : 8:12 p.m.

Thanks! It's good to be back.

craig stolefield

Tue, May 14, 2013 : 4:48 p.m.

Great project! I am so happy council had the resolve to keep working to get the federal money so they could use the money they had been saving to build the bridges, to fix the local roads. City streets are shaping up with all the work last summer and big projects planned for this summer. The state has cut way back on the funding they pass on to cities and that is bad enough but then don't even maintain the roads they own like Huron/Jackson (expressway business route) and the areas by the x-ways on State and S. and N. Main. Hope the Governor can get his funding package through, roads are bad in cities across the state.


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 4:45 p.m.

"Hieftje said because the city saved nearly $17 million in local street millage dollars by securing grant dollars, the city has been able to ramp up repairs of admittedly tattered city streets." Really? "Ramp up" you say? Coulda' fooled me....

craig stolefield

Tue, May 14, 2013 : 4:50 p.m.

As I understand it, the city spent more on roads last summer than ever before and they are improving. There are big projects coming again this summer.