Smith's Bridge supporters await Monday vote

Ferrysburg City Manager Craig Bessinger (front left) poses with members of the Citizens to Save Smith’s Bridge last year after the grassroots organization raised enough money to pay for a second engineering opinion on the bridge’s structural integrity.

Members of the Save Smith’s Bridge citizens group are excited about the prospect of the Ferrysburg bridge reopening soon.

The group raised more than $1,700 to pay for a “second opinion” engineering study. In their opinion, Fleis & VandenBrink civil engineers recently determined that the bridge is safe to be reopened, with load restrictions.

The engineers will present a report at the next City Council meeting, scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 6, at Ferrysburg City Hall.

Fleis & VandenBrink’s testing indicates that the bridge’s concrete compressive strengths are adequate to support vehicle traffic, and that there were “no significant areas of deterioration noted during visual inspection” after peeling back the asphalt and drilling test holes. The report also notes that “no delaminated or otherwise unsound areas of concrete were identified by the hammer sounding.”

Since June, the bridge over Smith’s Bayou has only been accessible to pedestrians and bicycles.

Jake Stearley, a spokesman for the Save Smith’s Bridge group, said it will be interesting to see what the council decides.

“I think some are receptive and I think some are not,” he said. “Fleis & VandenBrink is one of the more reputable engineering firms in the state of Michigan. If they are saying they tested the bridge and it’s safe to reopen, then our City Council should listen to the experts and reopen the bridge.”

Stearley said the citizens group is encouraging Ferrysburg residents to attend Monday’s meeting to voice their opinions on reopening the bridge to traffic.

“There’s still a lot that needs to be done to get this bridge reopened, and the biggest thing is the vote from City Council on Jan. 6,” he said.

Stearley said that if the council votes to keep the bridge closed, his group will continue to work toward reopening it.

“There would be a next move,” he said, “but I’m not ready to say anything until the vote on Jan. 6. But we will continue to pursue this.”

However, that likely won’t include financial assistance, like the $1,700 the group paid for the second engineering opinion.

“Our group is done paying for things that City Council should be paying for,” Stearley said. “But we are going to continue pursuing getting the bridge open and getting the bridge fixed, and pursuing outside funding to pay for the repairs.”

Stearley noted that the city has only applied for grants to replace the bridge, which is estimated at about $13 million.

Fleis & VandenBrink engineers estimated that the bridge could be repaired for about $1 million, according to Ferrysburg City Manager Craig Bessinger.

“I’m not sure if they had that as a formal quote or just a ballpark figure,” Bessinger said.

The city manager said it would be a City Council decision whether or not to pursue grants for repair versus replacement.

Stearley believes repairing the bridge makes the most economic sense and it puts the city in a more favorable light when requesting grant money. The city has tried for several years for replacement grants but has been turned down each time.

“Repair would be a fraction of the amount of replacement,” Stearley noted. “A grant is much more likely to be granted for repair.”

Newly elected City Councilman Will Montgomery said he’s in favor of reopening the bridge.

“Fleis & VandenBrink is a very reputable firm both in West Michigan and in the country,” he said. “I look forward to listening to what they have to say and hopefully bringing it to a vote next Monday. Hopefully, City Council will vote to reopen the bridge based on their recommendation.”

Montgomery said he’s heard from a lot of residents who are excited about the possibility of the bridge being opened again to vehicular traffic.

“There are a lot of complaints about it being closed,” he said. “The people that it doesn’t affect really don’t want their taxes affected. They don’t want to pay for something they don’t use, which I understand.”

Montgomery said he hopes the City Council decides to seek repair grants.

“At the end of the day, the city should apply for grants to repair instead of applying for absurd grant amounts to replace it,” he said.

(2) comments

MOONDOG

From the reports I've read there is no reason to replace the bridge.Repair it and keep it useful with load limits,then repair the eastbound lane of the Spring Lake bridge where the roadway is falling into the bridge.

Sihagedorn

Muni Bonds?

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