United Bridge Partners wins support to fix Bay City's drawbridges

BAY CITY (WJRT) (08/05/19) - After years of discussion about the future of Bay City's aging drawbridges, the city commission made a big decision Monday to move forward with United Bridge Partners.

Bay City Commissioners voted 8 to 1 to continue talks with the Denver-based company about how to finance costly maintenance on the Liberty and Independence bridges.

United Bridge Partners is proposing to rehabilitate the Liberty Bridge, which joins Woodside Avenue and Vermont Street, and build a new Independence Bridge, which carries Harry S. Truman Parkway traffic.

The company also provided a less expensive option of rehabilitating the Independence Bridge without completely replacing it.

Motorists would be charged a toll when they cross the bridges to pay for the millions of dollars of work. The tolls wouldn't begin for at least five years, however.

"Not having a toll until five years after each bridge will be done I think would be appealing," said Bay City Mayor Kathleen Newsham. "The fact that they want give us $5.7 million when all is said and done, which could go back into infrastructure."

Monday's vote allows City Manager Dana Muscott to work on a development agreement with United Bridge Partners. Once that is complete, it will come back to the city commission for a final approval.

But even after two years of talks, some say they need more time to digest the various private proposals.

"I feel like we just put in the hands of negotiation of somebody who doesn't even live in the county. I was hoping that would put the decision on hold, explore other options, other ideas. Maybe discuss it at more meetings. Give us more information." said Bay City resident Jennifer Streeter.

Fellow Bay City resident James Hayes believes the city should more aggressively pursue grants to pay for maintaining the bridges.

"I don't know how hard they tried, but the fact is it wouldn't take that much longer to look at these other couple of alternatives and then truly decide based on information, not on the limited information that they have," he said.

But some commissioners say they have waited long enough and work on the aging bridges can't be put off any longer.