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FHWA Announces $300M Investment in Bridge Projects Across the United States, $73M to Fund the Lafayette Avenue Bridge Project in Michigan

by: Jessica Hoover
Photo courtesy of FHWA
Photo courtesy of FHWA
The U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) recently revealed plans to allocate nearly $300 million for nine small- and medium-sized bridge projects in both urban and rural areas. The grants, awarded in eight states and the District of Columbia, are part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law's Bridge Investment Program. This program aims to rebuild, repair, and replace bridges of all sizes, with a total investment of $12.5 billion over five years.

The Bridge Investment Program has already made significant strides in the past fiscal year, with $2.4 billion being invested in 2022. This program is a crucial component of the government's efforts to revamp the nation's bridges and represents the largest dedicated investment in bridge infrastructure since the construction of the Interstate Highway System.

One of the projects set to benefit from this funding is the replacement of the Lafayette Avenue Bridge in Bay City, Michigan. The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) will receive $73 million from the Bridge Investment Program for this project. The Lafayette Avenue Bridge serves as a vital link between residential neighborhoods, commercial districts, and nearby businesses on the east and west sides of Bay City, with an estimated daily traffic of 16,000 vehicles.

Spanning the east channel of the Saginaw River, the Lafayette Avenue Bridge was built in 1938 to replace an earlier structure from 1876. After 85 years of service, the bridge is in poor condition and experiencing increasingly frequent operational issues. As the end of its service life approaches, the bridge has undergone a growing number of repairs and closures. In 2019, the bridge required emergency repairs on six occasions, while unanticipated closures escalated to 20 in 2022.

“The Lafayette Avenue Bridge is scour critical, in poor condition, and experiencing increasing operational problems and maintenance needs,” said Beckie Curtis, MDOT’s Chief Bridge Engineer. “Replacing the bridge will address these issues by providing a structure that meets current design criteria and provides improved safety and reliability for vehicular traffic, pedestrians, and bicycles.”

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Designed by Hardesty and Hanover, the $91 million Lafayette Avenue Bridge replacement project will improve the safety, efficiency, and reliability of transportation over the Saginaw River by eliminating scour critical foundations, fatigue-prone steel details, and structural and mechanical deficiencies. The new bridge will also feature updated structural, mechanical, and electrical systems.

The Lafayette Avenue Bridge project adopts an innovative approach to scour design. By participating in the Transportation Pooled Fund Study on Soil and Erosion Testing Services for Bridge Scour Evaluations, the design team was able to determine a more precise estimate of scour depths at the bridge than through traditional methods. Participation in the study facilitated the reduction of scour design depths, leading to a more efficient and cost-effective foundation design.

The replacement bridge serves as the primary pedestrian and bicycle crossing in Bay City and provides the only vehicular, pedestrian, and bicycle access from the densely populated east side of the city to community amenities at Middle Ground Island. To accommodate non-motorized traffic, the new bridge will feature a shared-use path and 5-foot sidewalks, as well as improvements to the shared-use paths on the east end of the bridge, eliminating an intersection crossing for bicyclists and pedestrians.

Once completed, the new Lafayette Avenue Bridge will provide a toll-free and reliable crossing, supporting businesses in transporting goods throughout the Bay Region. Project sponsors anticipate tens of millions of dollars in cost savings due to reduced travel time and improved safety benefits. The project is estimated to begin in April 2024, with an anticipated completion date in August 2026.

“This significant investment in Bay City will help replace this aging bridge — improving quality of life, helping residents commute to school and work more reliably, and bolstering the local economy,” said Senator Gary Peters. “I’m proud to have helped enact the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which made this funding a reality.”

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