Photo: Angela Cesere | AnnArbor.com
For those out of town, Ann Arbor is in the midst of a spicey Democratic mayoral primary, with incumbent John Hieftje taking some abuse from challenger Patricia Lesko. If you have a moment, James Leonard’s piece on the election in this month’s Ann Arbor Observer is priceless.
Anyway, earlier this week the challenger Lesko rattled off a few complaints by those around town including the state of the Stadium Boulevard bridges. Many fans of course use the structures to get to the stadium on football, basketball and even hockey (parking at Crisler is a good way to go) gamedays. Since March 2009 the city reduced the available driving lanes down to two (from four) for safety reasons. They still aren’t fixed and the city has been turned down for federal funding to this point.
Mayor Hieftje discussed the status last week at a public debate, from AnnArbor.com:
[Hieftje] said the city will fix the Stadium bridges next spring, after one last shot at applying for federal funding.
“I would be concerned about the Stadium bridges, too, and why they haven’t been fixed,” he said. “But I also think that it would have been foolish for the city to go forward and fix those bridges this fall, as we could have done, without waiting for the one more opportunity to get federal money that we believe is coming our way.”
So how bad are the bridges? From the city’s website on the project:
The E. Stadium Boulevard Bridge over S. State Street, built in 1917, and the bridge over the Ann Arbor Railroad tracks, built in 1928, are located about 350 feet apart. Both bridges are functionally obsolete, e.g. they do not comply with today’s design standards and lack both the needed horizontal and vertical clearances that are required. The bridge over S. State Street is now considered a temporary structure and must be replaced. The bridge over S. State Street had a Federal Sufficiency Rating (FSR) of 2 out of 100 (with 100 being a new bridge). Any bridge with a FSR of 50 or below can be considered for total replacement.
A bridge with an FSR of 1 is apparently one of those Indiana Jones footbridges.
I use the bridges quite a bit during the year and I must say to my surprise, I haven’t felt a lot of impact from the lane reduction. And I remember bracing for it before last season.
More concerning is what’s going to happen when they actually move to replace the bridges next spring. Sadly it looks like the project will affect not only the 2011 season, but likely into October of the 2012 season as well. Here’s the timeline presented in May 2010:
If this freaks you out, check out the detour plans for east/west traffic. To avoid cars cutting through the neighborhoods they are rerouting traffic up to Eisenhower (basically Briarwood Mall). What a mess.
On a cheerful note, the designs of the new bridges look cool, including nice space for foot traffic and bike lanes on either side, with a classy stairway from Stadium to State St:
Like anything, people will find a way to deal with it but certainly this will be a major headache for M fans through the 2011 season and possibly into 2012. The question to me is whether the design will allow for some vehicle traffic to get over the new bridges, perhaps on one side, before they are complete in 2012.