Michigan Highways: Since 1997.

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M-22 & M-109 junction route signage in Glen Arbor, Michigan

The Zilwaukee Bridge: From the Beginning

The following pages reproduce a 1987 report issued by the Michigan Department of Transportation in response to public concerns about the safety of the Zilwaukee Bridge, then nearing completion. The text here is reproduced word-for-word from the original report and no alterations—grammatical or otherwise—have been made.

May 11, 1987

TO:  Members of the Michigan Legislature
        Citizens of Michigan

The safety of the Zilwaukee Bridge being built to carry I-75 over the Saginaw River has been called into question, raising public concerns. Certainly the safety of the bridge, and of all types of bridges, is of highest concern to those of us in the Michigan Department of Transportation who are charged with the design, construction, maintenance and administrationof the state highway system. Like the rest of the motoring public, we also have personal concerns.

The Zilwaukee Bridge is a concrete segmental bridge. It is built of a series of high-strength, reinforced concrete segments held together by thousands of firmly tensioned steel cables. Many bridges of this type have been built in western Europe, the United States and Canada.

A construction accident in August 1982 caused a 300-foot deck section to tilt. The damage has been fully repaired, and construction is approaching completion. Our Department and the two highly respected engineering consulting firms hired to advise us and the contractor are working closely on every phase of the project.

It should be emphasized that almost every day during construction, the bridge is carrying far greater loads than it will ever experience when it is opened to traffic. The equipment used to erect the concrete segments weighs as much as 49 fully-loaded, 40-ton trucks-four million pounds. Another important fact is that the bridge will be much stronger when it is completed than it is at any time during construction.

This report is intended to provide a concise and accurate history of the bridge project and to clear up misconceptions and misunderstandings that may have arisen during its construction. It also explains why I have complete confidence in the bridge's safety as a public facility and why we believe it will be a strong and durable structure, well able to serve the people of Michigan for a long, long time.

[James P. Pitz signature]
James P. Pitz

Next: Section 1: Safe Today & Tomorrow
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