with gallery: Lower Burns Park residents enjoy first view of new East Stadium Boulevard Bridges
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Residents of Ann Arbor's Lower Burns Park neighborhood could not have asked for a better day to celebrate the re-opening of the East Stadium Boulevard Bridges.
Under sunny skies and temperatures in the mid-60s, about 150 neighborhood residents and their friends enjoyed a sneak peek at the new bridge, which is scheduled to open to the public Wednesday.
The neighborhood, which has born a significant amount of the inconvenience since the bridge reconstruction began in November 2011, enjoyed a relaxing afternoon of snacks and drinks at Rose White Park and the opportunity to be the first to walk over the bridge.
In addition to neighborhood residents, the event was attended by U.S. Rep. John Dingell, D-Dearborn, Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje, Senior Project Manager Mike Nearing and Ward 4 Ann Arbor City Council Representatives Margie Teall and Marcia Higgins.
“Everyone seems to be really pleased,” Hieftje said. “These are the folks that had to put up with a lot of the construction and congestion, so we wanted to give them a chance to celebrate.”
Teall, who represents the neighborhood in the fourth ward, said she has heard the complaints on the bridges' construction process and traffic but was really happy how the project has been handled.
“People are just singing the praises of how beautiful the bridge looks,” she said. “It’s really important for this neighborhood. This is the neighborhood that’s felt the brunt of everything. What I’m hoping is they really feel the relief of the traffic.”
Since the start of the bridge’s reconstruction, residents of the Lower Burns Park neighborhood have had to deal with construction noise, vibrations, extra dust and added neighborhood traffic in addition to longer commute times to get across town. But the cheery residents who came out Sunday said the new bridge was worth it.
“The old bridge looked really dangerous, it was nerve-wracking before,” Ann Arbor resident Karl Dickinson said. “It’s an incredible improvement.”
Dickinson, though not a resident of the Lower Burns Park neighborhood, said he and his wife, who works at the nearby Community Day Care, go around this bridge multiple times a day and the construction has been adding an additional 10-15 minutes to their commute.
“It’s a big deal that the bridge is re-opening,” he said.
Lower Burns Park resident Andrea Zemgulys said the construction tripled her commute time to get across town, especially during rush hour, but she said the old bridge needed to be replaced.
“It was falling apart,” she said. “I wouldn’t walk under it.”
Molly Bissonnette, who lives only three houses away from the start of the bridge, said she, in particular, has had to deal with extra noise and dust, but she wasn’t complaining. She said the bridge workers had been friendly and informative during the construction process.
“It was fun watching [the bridge] go down and come back up again,” she said. “I knew it was going to be good when it was done.”
The $22.8 million project has involved demolishing and replacing the former bridges that span over State Street and the Ann Arbor Railroad tracks. The city deemed the bridges, built in 1928, as obsolete, not complying with today’s design standards and lacking the required horizontal and vertical clearances and has had to reduce the bridges’ traffic load to compensate in recent years.
The new bridges feature improved sight distances, on-street bike lanes, sidewalks on both sides of the road, better street lighting, greater vertical and horizontal clearances and new staircases that will make pedestrian access to Michigan Stadium easier. The project also included enhancements to Rose White Park and new landscaping.
Nearing said he was proud and relieved that the project was finishing. He said he was pleased with the event’s turnout and happy to be able to give back to the neighborhood that bore the brunt of the construction disturbance.
“This day is really about all these folks and getting this all done,” he said. "This is for them. I’m just glad they’re happy.”