By James Hanlon
Leader Staff Writer
Some preliminary engineering work is being conducted on a small, aging bridge that divides Clear Lake and Long Lake in Oxford Township.
The Oakland County Road Commission approved a preliminary engineering services agreement with Livonia-based Orchard, Hiltz and McCliment engineering firm for the Maloney Street Bridge at a May 21 board meeting.
The 24-foot bridge is the only access for about a dozen residences on the peninsula at the dead end of Maloney St.
“This is only very preliminary work to see what would be needed and begin to come up with some cost estimates for the construction at which point we would start to look for actual construction dollars,” said Craig Bryson, the Road Commission’s senior communication manager.
There is no timeline for the project, no proposal and no funding yet. They are waiting to see the findings from the engineering firm.
“We know the bridge is in poor shape and will need to be replaced and we want to begin that process,” Bryson said.
“We do have it checked periodically. We would never let it get to the point where it was so dangerous it couldn’t be used. So, it’s not in imminent danger of collapsing or anything like that. But, there are some weight restrictions.”
After inspection last fall, the bridge’s weight limit was reduced from 33 tons to 19 tons for a single vehicle. (25 tons for a double unit and 42 tons for a triple.)
“These load reductions do not prohibit the usage of common vehicles (school buses, fire trucks, delivery trucks). However, garbage trucks should monitor their loads to be sure they are within legal limits,” Thomas Blust, the commission’s director of engineering at the time, wrote in a Sept. 17, 2019 memo to the township. “We will continue to monitor the condition of this structure and attempt to identify future funding in order to repair or replace this structure and remove these load reductions.”
Built in 1973, the timber bridge replaced an older bridge that was deemed unsafe in 1971 when a garbage truck broke through the decking. Traffic had to use a construction causeway in the meantime.
In 2010, the bridge was added to a list of 3,055 Michigan bridges that were deemed “structurally deficient” by Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association.
“We will continue to watch it,” Bryson said. “If it gets worse, as an absolute last resort, if need be, we would close it if we have to.”
Some folks hope the new bridge will be lifted to allow more boats to pass between the lakes. Others worry about the footprint of a larger bridge and increased boat traffic.
At its current size, the bridge is only large enough for a row boat to comfortably pass through.
“At this point, we are not anticipating (building a raised bridge) simply because doing so would likely have a significant impact on the cost,” Bryson said.
By James Hanlon