Local officials learn about major bridge project

HANCOCK – Local officials got an overview recently of the massive maintenance project for the Portage Lake Lift Bridge that will begin later this year.Al Anderson, Michigan Department of Transportation project engineer, presented details of the planned work to members of the Hancock and Houghton city councils.

Anderson said the project will begin in December and is expected to be completed in April 2016. The project consists of replacing the 84 lift cables of the bridge, which opened to traffic in 1959.

“Those have never been replaced,” he said.

Anderson said the $5.5 million project also includes rehabilitation of the balance chains, electrical and mechanical upgrades, security system upgrades, spot painting and installation of new warning and barrier gates.

“Currently, there are no barrier gates on the bridge,” he said.

Work on the lift cables will take place from January to March. Disconnecting the cables will take 10 hours, Anderson said, but the plan is to do that when traffic is lightest.

“We’re intending it to be on Saturday night,” he said.

During the maintenance work, Anderson said the 4.4 million pound deck span will be moving up and down at various times. Traffic will be reduced to one lane in both directions at times. When the deck needs to be up, ramps will be installed for emergency vehicles, but only ambulances and police vehicles. Fire trucks won’t be able to use the ramps because of their size.

“That’s all we can do,” he said of the need to restrict emergency vehicles to ambulances and police vehicles.

There are planned closures of the bridge for varying lengths, Anderson said. The closures include two 10-hour closures in January and March and about 200 15- to 20-minute closures from December to April for lift cable replacement, as well as 16 three-hour closures for balance chain rehabilitation from January 2015 to April 2015.

The longer closures will be done at night,