There’s another gasp of hope for Smith’s Bridge to be reopened.
The Ferrysburg City Council unanimously voted Monday night to seek bids for further testing on the bridge’s structural integrity.
City Manager Craig Bessinger said he hopes to draft a request for proposals and “get it out by the end of the week.” The request will solicit bids from firms for tests that will include peeling back the asphalt and taking core samples of the box beams.
The City Council voted to close the bridge in June after engineers determined more deterioration had taken place over the winter months. The bridge is currently open only to pedestrian and bicycle traffic.
Bessinger said the council will review the bids, then determine whether or not to proceed with more testing.
“It would be a city expense,” Bessinger said. “We haven’t discussed any amounts yet. It’s going to be up to City Council what they want to spend on it.”
Bessinger hopes to have bids available to present to the council at its Nov. 4 meeting, scheduled for 7 p.m. at Ferrysburg City Hall. He expects testing could be completed yet this fall.
Bessinger said it’s way too early to know if there’s a chance that the bridge could be reopened to vehicular traffic.
“It’s all going to depend on what the test results come back as,” he said. “I think City Council wants to see the results of the test and have more information.”
Citizens raised enough money to hire an engineering firm for a “second opinion” on the bridge’s condition. Although many of the findings were similar to the initial engineering report, Fleis & Vandenbrink engineers provided several potential lesser-cost options that will be part of the request-for-proposals process later this week. The alternatives would not replace the bridge, but rather potentially refurbish and extend its life until permanent replacement funds can be secured.
Last week, city leaders felt hopeful after Michigan lawmakers approved the replacement of Smith’s Bridge in the state Legislature’s 2019-20 budget. But Gov. Gretchen Whitmer line-item vetoed the $13 million bridge replacement, along with many other items, saying that road and bridge repairs should have a steady form of funding, not a one-time budget expenditure.
“We were hopeful the governor was going to sign the budget as presented with the funds in there to replace the bridge,” Bessinger said. “She was here this summer and saw the shape of the bridge. She commented on how it needed replacing and that it was a public safety issue. We were hoping she would sign it and keep the funds in there.”