Bay City residents berate bridge plan

By Logan Krause, newswriting student

BAY CITY – The scent of popcorn hung in the stale air as residents crowded the Bay City Commission Chambers on Feb. 5 to get updated and share their views on a plan to charge tolls on the bridges that link the city’s east and west sides.

Commission President Andrew Niedzinski gaveled the session to order, and then Director of Public Works, Robert Dion, gave an in-depth presentation of the facts and figures associated with the bridges (see Bridge Basics). The meeting was then opened for public comment, with each speaker granted 5 minutes in front of the commission.

A steady stream of comments – mostly critical of the plan – continued for over 2 hours.

“I’ll get a bloody rowboat and go across the water that way,” said Bangor Township resident Dolores Kerr.

Former First Ward Commissioner Lynn Stamaris raised questions about the figures presented to the commission, which he said were completely different than much larger figures that had been presented while he was sitting on the commission.

Yet another city resident raised concerns as to where the bridge would have to start to maintain a grade of incline that would be acceptable under MDOT standards.

While most attendees expressed disbelief and annoyance, others liked the idea of having a private entity take over the bridge, resident Bruce Eckert told commissioners that transferring the bridges to a private company could benefit city residents.

Commission President Niedzinski said after the meeting that he was pleased with the citizen engagement.

“I’m very excited to see folks getting involved in their community,” he said. “This isn’t a decision to be taken lightly, and I’m pleased to see that our city’s residents realize that.”

Niedzinski added that this was the first of a string of discussions to be held on the bridges.

“This is a community problem, and we need a community solution,” he said.

 

BRIDGE BASICS

Liberty Bridge

Daily crossings: 16,849

Opened: 1986

Lifespan: 40 years

Annual cost to city’s taxpayers: $607,000

The defects: The abutment sole plate is corroding, especially dangerous as this is where the bridge attaches to its footings.

Independence Bridge

Daily crossings: 23,780

Opened: 1976

Annual cost to city’s taxpayers: $251,000

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