This bridge is a very long example of 1940s beam bridge construction. With original railings, the bridge also retains a high degree of historic integrity. MDOT mentions that the swampy nature of the soil required special support design with this bridge. Indeed, the supports do have an appearance that is unlike that seen in other bridges built during this period. The bridge is in good condition also with weight limits only posted for trucks with more than two axels, 68 tons for three axels, and 47 for more than three axels. This bridge is located at an area that appears to be a popular boat launch for small craft. The bridge creates a nice complement to an attractive region, and should be maintained for its continued historic and functional value.
Despite the historic value of the bridge and despite the relatively good condition of the bridge (it only had posted weight limits for combination axel trucks) this historic bridge was demolished and replaced, with the replacement bridge reusing the substructure of the historic bridge, and the metal portions of the original railing were salvaged and reused. Also, the replacement bridge was also the same general type: a steel stringer bridge rather than something different like a pre-stressed concrete slab. As such, some might try to bill the project as a preservation or rehabilitation project because a number of features from the historic bridge were retained. However HistoricBridges.org policy has always been to consider any project which completely replaces all of the main spans in a bridge to be a demolition and replacement project. This reason for this policy is much more clear in situations where a complex superstructure like a truss bridge is replaced with a pre-stressed concrete box beam bridge. However in both that scenario and with the Fruitport Road Bridge, the part of the bridge which spans the feature has been completely destroyed.
As Section 106 mitigation for an adverse effect of demolition, this is a great example project. The substructure was reused, the replacement bridge type was the same structure type, and the metal portions of the original railing were salvaged and reused. However, it cannot be called historic bridge preservation, particularly considering that the historic structure could have been rehabilitated.
Information and Findings From Michigan Historic Bridge Inventory
multiple-span concrete/steel bridge carries the Fruitport Road over the
Pettys Bayou, an arm of Spring Lake, between the villages of Spring Lake
and Fruitport. Extending 418 feet in overall length, the Bowen Bridge is
comprised of nine steel stringer spans, five at 55 feet in length, two
at 53 feet and two at 18 feet. Each span is made up of eight lines of
rolled I-beams, with steel channel spandrel beams, all braced laterally
by solid steel diaphragms. The superstructure is supported by concrete
spill-through piers, each of which rests on two steel caissons.
Statement of Significance
The Bowen Bridge has since carried vehicular traffic on this secondary route, in essentially unaltered condition. The Bowen Bridge represented one of the most important pieces of post-WWII construction in Ottawa County. It is historically important for its association with Carl Bowen, a locally important personage. And it is technologically noteworthy as a well-preserved example of late-1940s bridge construction in Michigan.
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