More bridge closures planned

Jordan Beck | Daily Press
In this Daily Press file photo, work continues on the Michigan Department of Transportation’s bridge replacement project.

Jordan Beck | Daily Press In this Daily Press file photo, work continues on the Michigan Department of Transportation’s bridge replacement project.

WELLS — The first of three planned closures of the U.S. 2 and 41 bridge over the Escanaba River in 2017 by the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) went well — despite some lengthy delays for motorists, MDOT Communications Representative for the Superior Region Dan Weingarten said. The closure lasted from Sept. 5-8.

“Overall, we’re pleased with the way things went,” he said.

The closure took place to allow for bridge beam placement work on the new E&LS Railroad bridge. Weingarten said work progressed without any major difficulties — in fact, the bridge re-opened 30 minutes earlier than had been scheduled on Sept. 8.

“All of the railroad bridge beam work that needed to be completed during the closure was completed as planned,” he said.

Weingarten also discussed the detour route used by area drivers during the closure period. During this period, eastbound traffic was detoured from U.S. 2 via County Roads 426, 420, and 531 and onto M-35 before returning to U.S. 2. This route was reversed for westbound traffic.

While he was relatively pleased with how things went in this regard, considering the volume of traffic on the detour and the length of the detour route, Weingarten said there were some issues associated with the detour. One of the issues — traffic backups on some intersections, primarily the intersection of County Roads 420 and 531 — was addressed during the closure period.

“We made some minor modifications to the signs and the barricades that were in place there to try to reduce the vehicular conflicts,” Weingarten said.

MDOT was assisted with the detour by the Michigan State Police Gladstone Post, Delta County Sheriff’s Department, and the Delta County Road Commission.

“With the help of all those agencies, we were able to handle the issues along … the detour route,” Weingarten said.

MDOT’s next bridge closure is expected to take place in early to mid-October.

“That is going to be a closure for placement of the beams for … the highway bridge over the river,” Weingarten said. He noted the closure — which has not yet been officially scheduled — should last one full day, with partial days before and after the day-long closure.

Later in October, MDOT’s third and final closure of the Escanaba River bridge for this year is expected to take place.

“That detour will be a little more substantial in duration,” Weingarten said. He noted this closure is expected to last three full days, with partial days before and after this period.

Before either of these closures take place, MDOT will perform an analysis of its detour route.

“We’ll be reviewing this detour route and the signs we had in place with our law enforcement partners before the next detour,” Weingarten said. Participants in the analysis will analyze what worked and what didn’t work with the detour route during the first bridge closure, and changes to the route may be made as a result of this process.

Weingarten thanked local motorists for their patience with the closures. He also asked them to continue driving carefully and to minimize distractions while in construction zones and on detour routes.

“We just urge everybody to drive cautiously and stay alert,” he said.

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