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Posted on Tue, Feb 22, 2011 : 11:46 a.m.

Start date on Stadium bridges reconstruction delayed to fall, Ann Arbor officials say

By Ryan J. Stanton

The long-anticipated reconstruction of the East Stadium Boulevard bridges will take a little longer than expected, Ann Arbor officials said today.

Mayor John Hieftje said the demolition portion of the project, which was expected to begin in the spring, mostly likely won't start until the fall now.


From left to right, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Transportation John Porcari, Congressman John Dingell, Mayor John Hieftje, Homayoon Pirooz and Council Member Margie Teall inspect the Stadium bridge above State Street last May.

Ryan J. Stanton |

Hieftje attributed the delay to having to jump through federal hoops, but referred official comment to Homayoon Pirooz, head of the city's project management unit.

Pirooz said the project is the recipient of three different kinds of state and federal transportation dollars, which complicates matters. Each pot of money has its own process that must be followed before the dollars are available for the construction phase, he said.

Based on progress made to date, Pirooz said the city expects to finalize an agreement with the U.S. Department of Transportation for a $13.9 million TIGER II grant in May. The next step is securing the required right-of-ways, which he believes will happen in May and June.

After executing a formal agreement between the city and the state in July, the Michigan Department of Transportation will advertise the construction contract and will receive bids, Pirooz said. Then it will be several more months before the contractor who submits the lowest qualified bid can mobilize to the site and begin construction.

"We will probably have a more definite start of the construction date in the summer, and after all the formal agreements are in place," he said.

The city issued a request for proposals last month, seeking a firm to provide professional engineering services for the project. A project schedule attached to the RFP states that bids from contractors would be received through September, and the selected contractor would be given notice to proceed on the project in October.

The bridges would not reopen to traffic until November 2012, with final restoration and cleanup work expected to be finished by June 2013.

The project's delay is cause for criticism on, a blog run by Ann Arbor resident Patricia Lesko, who unsuccessfully ran against Hieftje for mayor last year. A recent post on the blog blasts Hieftje and fellow council members for assuring residents during their campaigns last summer that the project would start in the spring.

"That was a whopper, alas," A2Politico writes. "Pure fiction. Huckster propaganda."

Hieftje argues when he said the project would begin in the spring, it was only city staff's best guess at the time, and the city hadn't yet landed all of the grant money it ended up receiving.

"There's really good reasons why it's taking longer," he said. "Now that we're using other funds, the city doesn't have as much control."

Ann Arbor officials were hanging onto hope last year that the crumbling bridge spans over South State Street and the nearby railroad tracks would receive state and federal grants.

Without funding assistance, it would cost the city $23 million of its own money to replace the bridges, which would have been a blow to local street projects. Hieftje and others were criticized by their political foes for putting off the repairs, but the gamble paid off in October when U.S. Rep. John Dingell, D-Dearborn, announced $13.9 million in federal funding.

With additional funding from the state, the city now has $17.3 million in grants that will pay for 75 percent of the project.

Pirooz said it's possible that some of the steps in the process may take less time than the city estimates today, and others could take longer.

As of now, he said, the city has completed the engineering design and construction plans, and state and federal officials are doing their parts to allow construction to begin at the earliest opportunity. In contrast to a year ago, he added, there are no significant challenges left that could prevent the city from rebuilding the bridges at this point.

According to a statement on the city's website, replacing the East Stadium bridges is "Ann Arbor's highest priority transportation project."

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529.


Patricia Lesko

Sat, Feb 26, 2011 : 3:06 p.m.

Readers might be interested to read today's A2Politico <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>. Three days before posted this piece, and city officials made claims that money was on the way, the U.S. House of Representatives ended the TIGER II grant program.


Wed, Feb 23, 2011 : 4:12 p.m.

Kudos to Ann Arbor for being patient and being able to capitalize on available funding that does not cost the Ann Arbor city tax payers what the project originally would have. Those who are not familiar with the Federal Funding process should not be so quick to criticize what they believe Ann Arbor has control over. For more information go to <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> and information on the 6 month+ process can be found.


Wed, Feb 23, 2011 : 3:38 p.m.

If the reconstruction is going to take 14 months (from October 2011 - November 2012), has anyone thought about the effect on traffic for football Saturdays? Even though we are only talking 8 games a year, the traffic snarls will be monstrous. How about delaying the removal of the bridges until after the 2011 football season (i.e. December 2011) so that only one year of football traffic is mucked up!

Silly Sally

Wed, Feb 23, 2011 : 2:30 p.m.

Why not keep the cement portion of the bridge and just place new steel beams across it and then build a new roadway? This project is being over engineered and overbuilt and over spent. nd keep the feds out, as they probable rewuire much of it.


Wed, Feb 23, 2011 : 1:23 p.m.

Ed, My complaint is that this award by DOT appears to be a political payoff to get Mr. Dingell reelected. Why was the anouncement 2 weeks before the election vs 2 weeks after? Mr. Dingell did not even work on a U.S. budget for 2011 and voted for spending $1.6 trillion in borrowed money for 2009. He is still saying we need to spend more. Ann Arbor voters gave him the margin of victory in his last election. We sold ourselves for $13.7 million. We should be proud of our new bridge, it only cost us our diginity.


Wed, Feb 23, 2011 : 5:45 a.m.

better get it DONE before football season starts.if not it's going to be Jolly Good this year around the Big House.


Wed, Feb 23, 2011 : 3:44 a.m.

A Bridge to Far.....away!


Wed, Feb 23, 2011 : 2:46 a.m.

This was obviously an earmark by John Dingell to win votes in Ann Arbor. Sad. It happened right before the election. I didn't buy into it...and didn't vote for him. You can't buy my vote.


Wed, Feb 23, 2011 : 2:23 a.m.

Mr Pirooz says next step is to get rights of way. What rights of way? A bridge is already there, so I suppose it must be to widen the road either side of the bridge? Sounds like we don't need the bridge at all, if Hoover is an alternative.

David Briegel

Wed, Feb 23, 2011 : 1:10 a.m.

I can tell you TeaPublicans long for the good ol' days of yesteryear when &quot;bridges to nowhere&quot; were in vogue! You think you are getting something different. Well you are. You will now get TeaPublican pork instead of Democratic pork! i'm certain that will be better! If only Engler and Bush could have cut taxes more we might never have gotten a bridge!! Good post Tim Darton!

Matthew Snyder

Wed, Feb 23, 2011 : 12:16 a.m.

Is there a reason that there has to be a bridge at that location? Why not just have a controlled, at-grade crossing? Seems like that would be a lot cheaper to build.

Rod Johnson

Wed, Feb 23, 2011 : 3:25 a.m.

This has been discussed over and over and over here and elsewhere. A search here for &quot;Homayoon Pirooz&quot; should turn some things up, or see <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> (scroll down to &quot;Stadium Bridges: At-Grade Rail Crossing?&quot;).


Tue, Feb 22, 2011 : 11:58 p.m.

Someone wrote &quot;the traffic is not that bad and runs smoothly, I can wait...&quot; There is a reason for that -- most of us that live in the neighborhood stopped using the Stadium Bridge more than a year ago -- what you see instead is people from the neighborhood crushing north onto State and then cutting across Hoover to go back south on Main -- that has resulted in absolute bumper to bumper traffic many parts of the day from Granger to Packard...that is a worse bottleneck than anything seen on the Stadium Bridges -- and it has actually caused damage and deep rutting on Hoover at Main turning southbound. But it goes to speak for itself -- people would rather wait 10 minutes to make a left-hand turn into Hoover from NorthBound State, than to cut back and take the Stadium Bridges -- they are just too dangerous to drive right now. I am amazed that the State hasn't stepped in and closed the bridges already. They are deeply pothole-marked single lanes that are just waiting for an accident to happen - one car to hit a pothole and veer into oncoming traffic, to cause a tragedy that will shut this travesty down. The City should be proactive and shut it down right now themselves no matter when they plan to rebuild. (Personally I'd rather see it all torn down and replaced by a land-level road and intersection.) That is why the traffic flows smoothly there. I wouldn't cross that bridge right now if my life depended on it. So I join the crush of humanity going North to go South.


Tue, Feb 22, 2011 : 11:13 p.m.

Steve: I don't know why it would be a big deal but we don't know if the mayor actually said &quot;mostly likely&quot; because it wasn't in &quot;quote,&quot; in the story. Mr. Stanton was paraphrasing or he would have used quotes and he was probably doing it on the fly so we should cut whoever said it some slack. Don't think it matters anyway. It was the city project manager who said &quot;right of way,&quot; in the story, not the mayor but then that wasn't in quotes either so who knows?

Steve Hendel

Tue, Feb 22, 2011 : 10:50 p.m.

&quot;Mayor John Hieftje said the demolition portion of the project, which was expected to begin in the spring, mostly likely won't start until the fall now.&quot; Mostly likely? &quot;The next step is securing the required right-of-ways, which he believes will happen in May and June.&quot; Isn't it &quot;rights-of-way?

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Tue, Feb 22, 2011 : 10:25 p.m.

Gotta love the Dingell bashers on this discussion. It appears he played a role in helping to secure a USDOT TIGER Fund grant worth millions of dollars for the city of Ann Arbor, and he gets criticized for it. Of course, had the City of A2's request been rejected by the USDOT, he would have been roundly criticized (and appropriately so) by many of these very same people for his failure to represent his district adequately . There is much about John Dingell's representation of his district and of his state worthy of complaint, but that people are complaining abut this is evidence that they simply complain in order to hear their teeth chatter. One other point: This was not an earmark. This project was not placed on a bill moving through Congress. The city of A2 applied to the USDOT for a TIGER fund grant. The USDOT granted that request. Congress did not vote on it. It therefore was not an earmark. Got all that? Facts, people. Facts!! Good Night and Good Luck

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Wed, Feb 23, 2011 : 2:26 a.m.

@Andy, So I guess that it is stimulus money somehow makes this a bad thing. Whatever. @Eyeheart, Not certain what you mean by &quot;as the post actually said prior to your 'interpretation' for the unwashed masses.&quot; Sorry. I'll grant you the possibility that the DOT's announcement was timed to the election, but, gee, if it was, that's politics as practiced by virtually all politicians, whatever their affiliation. As Mr. Dooley said, &quot;Politics ain't beanbag&quot;. And, BTW, wish I had said this in the main post: For those who decry earmarks, would they rather have earmarks that are placed on a bill by the people who represent them and that are voted on by Congress, or would they rather have unnamed bureaucrats, elected by no one (in this case, USDOT TIGER team folks) making decisions about which projects to prioritize. I'm not certain that the solution isn't worse than the disease. Good Night and Good Luck


Wed, Feb 23, 2011 : 2:04 a.m.

...or could have just been pointing out the, shall we say, &quot;interesting&quot; timing of his photo op - as the post actually said prior to your &quot;interpretation&quot; for the unwashed masses.


Tue, Feb 22, 2011 : 10:52 p.m.

USDOT for a TIGER fund grant = stimulus funds. Hope this bridge is still standing when my great grand kids begin paying for it.


Tue, Feb 22, 2011 : 9:52 p.m.

Interesting Congressman Dingell does amlost nothing to create a job growth environment for Michigan for 30 years, but get Ann Arbor $13.7 million 3 weeks before the election so AA votes for him. This is definitely proof that earmarks corrupt the process.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Tue, Feb 22, 2011 : 10:18 p.m.

1) Dingell's job is not to represent Michigan. It is to represent his district. 2) Pretty difficult to argue (unless one is blind) that Dingell did nothing for his district for 30 years. If this were the case, how did he keep getting elected. You might not LIKE what he did--but that's another thing altogether. 3) This was not an earmark. It was a project for which the city applied for funding to the DOT's Tiger Fund. This project was not a part of any legislation passed by Congress. 4) The DOT announced its funding of the project when it did. If you want to believe that Dingell had them time the announcement to influence the election--fine. You might or might not be correct. But he certainly isn't the first and won't be the last do do that. But the decision to fund was the USDOT's, not Dingell's, though he certainly lobbied for the funding. 5) And dollars to donuts that if the city of A2 had not received that TIGER funding, you'd be complaining about Dingell's failure to do his job. And you'd be correct in so doing. So, in your world, Dingell is wrong in securing the funds but would also be wrong if the funding hadn't happened. Other than these issues, yours is factually accurate and eminently logical post. Good Night and Good Luck

Erich Jensen

Tue, Feb 22, 2011 : 9:51 p.m.

Regardless of this information and everyones comments, this bridge and its reconstruction remains a dangerous delay.


Tue, Feb 22, 2011 : 9:10 p.m.

Townie: So the mayor was lying when he quoted what city staff told him? How is that lying? That must have been what the staff heading up the project believed at the time. Makes sense, if the city was going to spend only city money they would have had total control and they could have started this spring.


Tue, Feb 22, 2011 : 8:40 p.m.

Beginning construction just as the winter hits. Perfect timing. Outdoor projects commencing and running through the winter typically cost around 15% more. Those bids will certainly reflect that fact.


Tue, Feb 22, 2011 : 8:29 p.m.

It will begin in the &quot;fall&quot;. How ironic.


Tue, Feb 22, 2011 : 8:04 p.m.

Funny how can't bring itself to point out that Mayor Hieftje simply lied several times when asked about when the bridge repairs would be done. Without the requisite RFPs let and awarded (one assumes the mayor knows this) there was NO way the bridge repair would have been possible this spring. But the mayor knows won't hassle him on such minor 'details' and will continue to give him a bye on all his misstatements, lies and conflicts of interest. Funny how didn't 'discover' this story. Just one more example of not caring to look. I get more real news on than I do from And more truth as well.

Ryan J. Stanton

Tue, Feb 22, 2011 : 8:29 p.m.

As a responsible journalist, I can't just jump to the conclusion that someone blatantly lied when there's no proof, so to suggest that in this story would be a bit reckless. The truth is the city could have begun the reconstruction of the bridges as early as last year with local street reconstruction millage dollars. But that would have drastically reduced or eliminated street resurfacing and reconstruction projects for about two years. Knowing that, the decision was made to hold off on undertaking the project until the city tried one last time for state and federal grant funds, which came through in late 2010. With those in hand, the city is now for the first time operating on MDOT's schedule and has to go through a process of finalizing agreements with both the state and federal government, which the story states. Further explanation from the mayor: &quot;I am not one of the engineers working on the bridge project. Last summer I said the project would begin in the spring because that was staff's best guess at the time. I believe this was based on the city going ahead on its own with the bridge funded almost solely with city funds. The city would have had much more control, but of course it is much better to have the outside funding; the city can now spend those dollars on local road projects.&quot;


Tue, Feb 22, 2011 : 7:48 p.m.

And the fiasco continues. Very frustrating.


Tue, Feb 22, 2011 : 7:41 p.m.

And we want the government running our healthcare????????? This bridge fiasco is a case study in a bloated government bureaucracy and inefficiency!


Tue, Feb 22, 2011 : 7:17 p.m.

When is Dingell up for election again? You can bet that groundbreaking shovel will go in as soon as he get behind in the polls. Somebody will have to wake him up and let him know though.


Wed, Feb 23, 2011 : 1:21 a.m.

@John B. A tactic employed by the (now minority) Wisconsin and Indiana Democratic Senators.

John B.

Tue, Feb 22, 2011 : 11:50 p.m.

I really like the 'ignore user' feature.


Tue, Feb 22, 2011 : 10:46 p.m.

If it only cost Obama $14 million to buy that seat, and get this democrat fossil back in office for another term, that was a real bargain.

David Briegel

Tue, Feb 22, 2011 : 8:23 p.m.

He was never behind in any real poll and won handily by 17 points! And as the posters above clearly state, we have 14 million to fix our roads!

Ryan J. Stanton

Tue, Feb 22, 2011 : 7:25 p.m.

He was re-elected to a two-year term in November, which means, assuming he runs again, he will be back on the ballot in the August 2012 primary and, assuming he wins, he'll be competing in the November 2012 general election.

Tim Darton

Tue, Feb 22, 2011 : 6:59 p.m.

Congratulations to the city for winning this money and keeping this project on track. There was tremendous competition for the federal $$. The local money will now be available for local roads. It is understandable that it will take longer to coordinate with the state and federal funding streams and having to go through MDOT for contracts. I go over the bridge at least twice a day and there is actually never much of a slow down. I would much rather wait 6 months or more for it to start if that means the city gets federal funding. This will be the second major bridge project in about 6-7 years. The Broadway Bridges are beautiful.

Ryan J. Stanton

Tue, Feb 22, 2011 : 6:11 p.m.

More from Homayoon: &quot;The tradeoff for receiving the federal and state funding assistance is that the project's construction contract administration must be handled by the MDOT, that we must follow their lead, and that the construction start date must be adjusted as needed. That is not much of a sacrifice, and we have recommended it all along.&quot;

Atticus F.

Tue, Feb 22, 2011 : 6:09 p.m.

That is good news!

Alan Goldsmith

Tue, Feb 22, 2011 : 6:07 p.m.

Kudos to Pat Lesko for breaking this story.

Alan Goldsmith

Tue, Feb 22, 2011 : 6:05 p.m.

&quot;Hieftje argues when he said the project would begin in the spring, it was only city staff's best guess at the time, and the city hadn't yet landed all of the grant money it ended up receiving.&quot; So it wasn't just falsehoods during an election campaign, just more mismanagement? Thanks for explaining Mr. Mayor. We understand you are new at this running the city in an effective way thing...oh wait, you've been in office TEN YEARS. Never mind. No one is surprised by this fiasco.

John B.

Tue, Feb 22, 2011 : 7:45 p.m.

Can you donate the extra $14 Million that they will receive due waiting? That's $14 Million in Taxes that we don't have to pay locally. Sounds fine by me.

Craig Lounsbury

Tue, Feb 22, 2011 : 6:05 p.m.

How come nobody has a hard hat on in that picture?

Craig Lounsbury

Tue, Feb 22, 2011 : 8:30 p.m.

A) fair enough B)how do we now that ? C) then what are they looking at? what does the sun have to do with anything? It can shine on me through my bedroom window while a roof is over my head.

John B.

Tue, Feb 22, 2011 : 7:42 p.m.

A) it's not a construction site, B) they are not standing directly under anything, and C) the structurally-questionable portions of that area had already been demolished and removed by the time that photo was taken. Note that the sun is shining down directly on them. They are not in the shade.

average joe

Tue, Feb 22, 2011 : 5:52 p.m.

Too bad we don't have another election day around the corner. Maybe A2 would actually receive the money, &amp; not just hold a press conference for an incumbent who was running for re-election to announce it's on the way, a week before the election. Mr. Dingell- Now that you have won another term, Show us the money.....


Tue, Feb 22, 2011 : 8:43 p.m.

The money is gone and Dingell should be too

Stephen Landes

Tue, Feb 22, 2011 : 5:49 p.m.

We can forward this whole mess to the MDOT as a case study for how not to run a bridge project. This is not a slam on the A2 personnel, but on the whole process. Nothing is worse than Federal meddling and we can see what that costs us in this project -- time delays while the paperwork piles up and waits for someone to bless it. Maybe a consortium of local banks would give us a &quot;bridge loan&quot; with the various government pots of money pledged to repay the loans, so we can start construction NOW.


Wed, Feb 23, 2011 : 12:02 a.m.

&quot;Nothing is worse than Federal meddling&quot;? Oh, the horror ... that the Feds would &quot;meddle&quot; by contributing nearly fourteen million dollars to the project. Yup, those no-good Feds ruin everything!

Are you serious?

Tue, Feb 22, 2011 : 5:41 p.m.

There needs to be some temporary patching to carry us through the summer before the bridge is shut down. It's basically a bunch of crazy potholes now. I've been avoiding it complete if possible. However, it was pretty smooth the last couple of days since it was snow covered and not plowed!

Craig Lounsbury

Tue, Feb 22, 2011 : 5:25 p.m.

*&quot;After executing a formal agreement between the city and the state in July, the Michigan Department of Transportation will advertise the construction contract and will receive bids,&quot; *&quot;As of now, he said, the city has completed the engineering design and construction plans,&quot; *&quot;there are no significant challenges left that could prevent the city from rebuilding the bridges at this point.&quot; I'm just a knucklehead on the Internet but if quotes 2 and 3 above are accurate couldn't they start the bid process now.? Then the contractor can start sooner and maybe finish August of 2012 before the start of the football season.


Tue, Feb 22, 2011 : 7:59 p.m.

I would be surprised if the outside funders, state or federal, would allow them to start the bid process before each funder had approved the plans.


Tue, Feb 22, 2011 : 5:21 p.m.

According to Wikipedia it took 23 years for the Mackinac Bridge project to be done. A commission was organized in 1934 and the bridge opened for traffic in 1957. So we're ahead of the curve. To honor Big Mac we could call this one Little Mac.


Tue, Feb 22, 2011 : 7:54 p.m.

There are already a couple &quot;LIttle Mac&quot; bridges in Michigan... one on the GVSU campus, and also the Portage Lake Bridge at the entrance to the Keweenaw Peninsula. Maybe others as well? How 'bout Baby Mac for this one? :)

Dr. Rockso

Tue, Feb 22, 2011 : 5:17 p.m.

Crossing Stadium will be a lot easier with no traffic.


Tue, Feb 22, 2011 : 5:14 p.m.

&quot;The next step is securing the required right-of-ways, which he believes will happen in May and June&quot; What right of ways need to be secured? Does the city not have right-of-way for Stadium Boulevard?

Ryan J. Stanton

Tue, Feb 22, 2011 : 8:31 p.m.

U-M owns most of the adjacent properties along the path of the construction. To remove the old bridges and to build the new ones, and for the construction staging, the city will ask the university for easements and some grading permits along the path.


Tue, Feb 22, 2011 : 5:06 p.m.

&quot;not reopen to traffic until november 2012.&quot; I suspect that means the day after football season ends? Is the city planning on contingencies for football games (such as all the one way streets around stadium) or are they going to presume that football crowds will just figure it out for themselves?


Wed, Feb 23, 2011 : 12:21 a.m.

I was thinking the same thing. Lets start a bridge project around the same time as UM football. Won't that be special?

Bertha Venation

Tue, Feb 22, 2011 : 5:04 p.m.

(SIGH),,, sane ol' same ol'