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Crumbling bridge sparks concern in Trenton

Posted at 6:28 PM, Aug 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-13 18:28:46-04

TRENTON, Mich. (WXYZ) — Michigan’s crumbling bridges have residents in one Downriver community asking for help. The West Road viaduct is an essential bridge in Trenton, and it’s in desperate need of repair.

Crumbling concrete, rusting rebar, and gaping holes in bridge support piers: those are just some of the reasons the West Road viaduct in Trenton is on the list of bridges the Michigan Department of Transportation is watching very closely.

“It just raises a lot of questions as a citizen, and someone who’s concerned about safety and how this piece of critical infrastructure impacts the entire community,” said Ryan Stewart.

Stewart is a lifelong Trenton resident, community advocate, and president of the non-profit McLouth Waterfront Alliance. Stewart said the bridge is a lifeline for first responders and commuters Downriver.

He said it’s the only route from Grosse Ile and Trenton’s east residential areas and downtown that doesn’t regularly get blocked by trains because this bridge span goes over the railroad tracks.

“If this critical piece of transportation infrastructure were to be put down for an extended period of time, either from repairs or a substantial safety accident or incident, it would dramatically isolate a large portion of southeastern Wayne County’s population from emergency medical services,” said Stewart.

When the photos revealing the aging piers made the rounds on Facebook recently, residents reached out to the 7 Investigators for help getting answers.

Stewart said neighbors don’t want the county waiting too long to repair this, because they fear a repeat of the Grosse Ile county-owned bridge mess that’s kept that span closed for more than a year.

“What is their plan and how can residents in the community be confident they will come up with an effective plan,” asked Stewart.

Bridges are rated on a scale of 1 to 9, with 9 being the best. West Road is rated at a 3.

“A 3 means it’s serious,” said MDOT Chief Bridge Engineer Matt Chynoweth. “It’s still safe in terms overall it’s still safe to cross, but what it means for me as an engineer is we’re going to have to get in there very soon and do to some rehab.”

Chynoweth says this viaduct is high on MDOT’s list of bridges they’re concerned about, and it’s included in some funding bills making their way through the state legislature right now.

“It’s about one-third to one-half of the piers that really need some considerable work. But that’s still probably a couple million dollars to get that work done,” said Chynoweth.

In a statement, Wayne County Director of Public Services Beverly Watts said:

The West Road bridge in Trenton was inspected by the county's structural engineers this May and is currently open to traffic with no load restrictions. The bridge is scheduled to see maintenance next year. Wayne County currently has 5 bridges undergoing scheduled maintenance and 11 more have maintenance scheduled to start in 2022 and continue through 2025. This construction schedule could be adjusted based on pending federal infrastructure funding under debate in Congress.

With a “serious” rating, state and federal rules mandate that it be inspected every 12 months to monitor the safety.

“We have very qualified inspectors that inspect these bridges and if a bridge is open, it is safe,” said Chynoweth. “When bridges get closed, it is a huge impact to a community but that’s taken into account with the condition of the bridge. If an inspector and an engineer fears it is not safe for the traveling public, it is closed. Yes, it is a huge impact on that community, but we close it because we’re worried about public safety. This bridge is not there, at least not yet. We look at it more often, hopefully, the county has the project that they’re going to do next year is going to address some of these piers. But as it looks right now, per the latest inspection report, the inspection was done in May of this year, the bridge is safe because it's open.

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