Cost for new Lafayette Street drawbridge in Bay City doubles, delaying work indefinitely

Published: Dec. 20, 2019 at 2:23 PM EST
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(12/20/2019) - Construction of a new Lafayette Street drawbridge in Bay City will not happen next year as expected after costs for the project nearly doubled.

The Michigan Department of Transportation is planning a $45.5 million project to replace the bridge that carries M-13 and M-84 over the Saginaw River. Construction was planned to start in 2020 and last about two years.

However, MDOT says the project cost ballooned to nearly $80 million during the design process. So work has been put on hold indefinitely while engineers explore new options.

"We don't know at this time when construction will start," said Jack Hofweber, manager of MDOT's Bay City Transportation Service Center. "We've made a commitment to act in the best interest of tax dollars and the budget we have to work with, so we need an opportunity to consider other alternatives."

The Lafayette Street bridge was constructed in 1938 and received extensive maintenance in 1989. A study in 2014 recommended a full replacement at the $45 million cost rather than another round of extensive maintenance.

MDOT entered an agreement with a contractor who has experience with movable bridges during the engineering and design process. The arrangement is designed to let the contractor provide input on design, which can help pinpoint the cost and identify cost-saving options.

Hofweber said MDOT engineers learned the estimated project cost grew to $63 million over the summer and additional opinions showed cost projections up to $79 million.

MDOT says materials costs are contributing most to the extensive cost increase, including 7 million pounds of steel and the need for a larger foundation. Labor costs also are pushing the costs higher.

"We need an opportunity to review the project scope in light of these new figures and determine if we are truly making the best investment with our tax dollars," said MDOT Project Manager Jeff Triezenberg.

He said MDOT will reconsider whether a total replacement is still the best option for the bridge or whether a significant maintenance project may be a better option.

MDOT already has invested $2.7 million in upgrades to the Veterans Memorial Bridge, which carries M-25 traffic, along with work to state and local roads to prepare for the Lafayette Street Bridge project.

The Bay City Commission finalized an agreement earlier this week transferring ownership of its two bridges -- the Liberty and Independence drawbridges -- to United Bridge Partners.

The company plans to complete extensive maintenance on the Liberty Bridge and replace the Independence Bridge. The work would be paid for with new tolls enacted on the two spans.