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REPORT: Bridge to University of Michigan hospitals in 'poor' condition; Construction still year away

Posted at 7:47 PM, Oct 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-19 20:36:03-04

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (WXYZ) — At the intersection of East Medical Center Drive and Fuller Road in Ann Arbor is a bridge that leads to University of Michigan hospitals and if it's not rehabilitated soon, weight limits may have to be imposed, according to John Fournier, Acting City Administrator, in a memo he sent to the mayor and council members last week.

The East Medical Center Drive Bridge was built in 1982 and in its most recent inspection report, the condition of the bridge that runs over a railroad was classified as "poor."

"I've been down there and, yeah, it's in terrible condition," said Ann Arbor City Council Member Jeff Hayner (Ward 1). "It's been a long time coming that we act to do a study to repair or replace parts of that bridge."

The bridge is at an intersection that is heavily traveled by patients driving to the U-M medical center and employees who either drive, walk, bike, or travel in a shuttle or bus to get to work.

And if weight limits have to be imposed, "it would have a significant impact on vehicle access to the hospital area," Fournier wrote in his memo.

No one from the University of Michigan would comment to 7 Action News Tuesday, but at a council meeting on September 20, MLive reported that U-M Community Relations Director Michael Rein described the bridge as “in dire straits” and that U-M sees it as an urgent matter.

In an email to 7 Action News, Ann Arbor City Engineer Nicholas Hutchinson wrote, "The rating classification of “poor” does not mean that the structure is an immediate hazard. Rather, rehabilitation of the structure is needed. That rehab has been planned for, and the engineering design work for it was approved by City Council last night."

U-M is splitting the $1 million price tag with the City of Ann Arbor for the engineering design services of the bridge by DLZ Michigan, Inc.

And while the city owns the bridge, U-M is also willing to pay for the addition of another lane on the bridge for automobiles.

But if another lane is added, some members of council would like to see it used for emergency vehicles, bicyclists, and pedestrians which would follow the city's Carbon Neutrality Plan.

U-M maintains the additional lane is needed as a travel lane for vehicles to support traffic to the medical center.

"We're committed to paying the $5 million to widen the bridge if we have a full travel lane," Michael Rein, U-M Director of Community Relations, told city council Monday night, adding, ".. unless we get a travel lane at the end of the design process, in all likelihood, Michigan Medicine administration and the University of Michigan administration wouldn't commit the $5 million."

How an additional lane is to be used could remain unclear for a while.

Work to design the new bridge will take place over the course of 2022. Construction is expected to start in early 2023.