Final countdown: New Stadium bridges hours away from opening in Ann Arbor
Related coverage: East Stadium bridges expected to open about 3 p.m. Wednesday
Daniel Brenner I AnnArbor.com
The opening falls on the exact date Ann Arbor officials had planned on having the bridges open to traffic when construction first started last November.
Michael Nearing, the city's senior project manager, said the city won't be making a big deal out of it when the roadway and bridges open.
"When the roadway reopens, it will be a low-impact, non-event," he said, predicting it will happen quietly sometime in the mid- to late-afternoon.
Daniel Brenner I AnnArbor.com
The website already has information posted warning that drivers can anticipate single-lane closures between 9 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. on East Stadium Boulevard for the next couple of weeks, but at least one lane of traffic in each direction should be open at all times.
After nearly a year in which there was a concrete pour on site almost every day, crews turned their attention in recent days to marking pavement, installing signs, making sure lights are operational, removing construction materials and debris and completing railing installation. Some remaining work will continue into the spring.
The $22.8 million replacement of the 83-year-old spans over State Street and the adjacent railroad tracks was undertaken with motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians in mind.
Some of the project elements include improved sight distances, the addition of on-street bike lanes, sidewalks on both sides of the road, improved street lighting, greater vertical and horizontal clearances for both bridge spans, construction of a sidewalk on the west side of State Street and improved pedestrian access to East Stadium Boulevard via new staircases at State Street.
The staircases feature light posts along the outside edge for enhanced visibility and an internal heating system intended to prevent ice and snow from accumulating on steps. Also on the staircases are raised troughs on each side to facilitate walking bicycles up and down the stairs.
City Council Member Margie Teall, D-4th Ward, helped organize a pre-opening celebration in the Lower Burns Park neighborhood on Sunday where many residents came out and expressed their relief to have the bridge construction and traffic disruptions finally behind them.
Teall said the city is planning a ribbon-cutting ceremony to dedicate the new bridges in the spring when the weather is nicer and after landscaping and other final touches are complete.
Nearing said work that remains to be finished between now and May includes placing permanent pavement markings, completing remaining landscaping and anti-graffiti coating, installing permanent right-of-way monuments and performing a number of routine "punch list" items.
Daniel Brenner I AnnArbor.com
The Ann Arbor Public Art Commission is seeking qualification statements from artists and submissions are due by Dec. 5, which is an extension from the previous Nov. 30 deadline.
"For the first time, the newly reconstructed bridges connect pedestrians between the boulevard and the bridged street, both major city corridors," the commission's website states. "The redesigned streets and sidewalks have increased the green space at an adjacent park. The goal of the art project is to raise the awareness of multi-modal transportation methods in the area, encourage their safe, complementary use and further the connections between the nearby neighborhoods."
Demolition of the old Stadium bridges began shortly after the University of Michigan's final home football game of the season last November.
For the first five games this year, the bridges were out, which presented a challenge for thousands of fans trying to get to nearby Michigan Stadium. A newly repaved East Stadium Boulevard and the new bridge spans should be open for Saturday's matchup against Iowa, the final home game this year.
U-M spokesman Jim Kosteva said he thinks the construction went exceedingly well and was professionally directed by the city's project management team.
"We appreciated their willingness to work with the university surrounding the daily operations and special activities held in that vicinity over the past year," he said, adding it was a good example of the university and city coordinating efforts. "We also appreciated the patience of our patrons who experienced the anticipated longer wait times to get in and out of the area for events."
The 83-year-old spans were literally crumbling before they were demolished last year to make way for the new spans with added features for pedestrians and bicyclists.
The old bridges carried more than 48,000 vehicles per day on one of the main east-west corridors in Ann Arbor. But from January 2009 until the time they were demolished, traffic was reduced to one lane in each direction after inspections revealed problems with beams underneath.
An engineering firm warned the city in September 2009 it was possible that football-sized chunks of concrete could fall from the bridge, injuring anyone below.
U.S. Rep. John Dingell, D-Dearborn, is given credit for helping Ann Arbor secure a $13.9 million, highly competitive federal grant for the project in late 2010, while $2.9 million came from the state.
With the money the city saved in its street fund by having those grants, the city has been able to pump millions of dollars into dozens of street resurfacing projects. As was always planned, State Street and East Stadium Boulevard were reconstructed in the vicinity of the project this year.
In the most recent project newsletter, officials noted that when motorists drive by they'll notice new LED street lights in the area.
As part of the project, Rose Avenue between State and White streets also has been incorporated as an extension of Rose-White Park and will have new street lights and landscaping.
Nearing said the lights are in the process of being erected and will be up within the next day or two, and the landscaping in the area will be done within the next week or so.
The border area between the park and East Stadium Boulevard also will have a new six-foot-tall wooden fence containing an entrance to the park. That's expected to go up on Wednesday.
Nearing said planting areas adjacent to the new multi-colored retaining walls also will contain many trees and shrubs and that landscaping work is under way.