Typically, when a city is faced with a collapsing economy, and giant auto industry factories are closed, and the city's population is decreasing as people move elsewhere to find a better life elsewhere, you would expect that the city would try to improve its image and try to recover from the economic disaster. The City of Flint has done nothing. A visit in 2006 revealed that not only had Flint not done anything to attract people to the city, they had instead managed to demolish two of their three largest historic concrete arch bridges, the Chevrolet Avenue Bridge and the Beach-Garland Street Bridge, leaving only this bridge, which is itself in critical condition and likely to be demolished. In a city that is struggling to prosper, all the city could decide to do with taxpayer money is to demolish beautiful historic bridges? Clearly more than the auto industry's problems are to blame, for this city's troubles. Perhaps city voters should elect someone else to run this city. These bridges were impressive monuments to transportation, and for nearly a century had faithfully carried the vehicles that Flint helped build for so many years. If they had been restored, they could have been attractions for the city, as well as simply helping to beautify the city. As arch bridges using the rare, patented Luten arch design, these bridges are unique and unusual, and something Flint should have been proud of. For comparison, Elkhart, Indiana is another city that has been devastated by a loss of area jobs and prosperity, yet it has two beautifully rehabilitated concrete arch bridges, one on Lexington Avenue, another on Main Street.
Information and Findings From Michigan Historic Sites Online
Included among fourteen Genesee County structures in the Survey Sample is this long span arch bridge in the city of Flint. The bridge carries West Second Street over Swartz Creek in a residential/industrial section of the city. The bridge is a 70-foot, filled spandrel arch, with earth fill and an asphalt-surfaced roadway that is flanked on both sides by concrete sidewalks that cantilever on brackets over the arch's spandrel walls. The heavily skewed, elliptically shaped arch springs from massive concrete abutments. It has a tapered arch ring, which is corbelled slightly from the spandrel on each side; the guardrails feature classical cast-concrete balustrades with paneled bulkheads. Other than moderate staining and spalling on the arch spandrels and rings, the West Second Street Bridge remains in essentially unaltered and physically good condition.
Statement of Significance
During the 1910s and early 1920s the City of Flint built several concrete arch bridges to carry its streets over Thread Creek, Swartz Creek and the Flint River. Included among these were the Chevrolet Bridge, the Fenton Road Bridge, and the Beach Garland Street Bridge and this bridge on West Second Street. The West Second Street Bridge was engineered in January 1919 by the Flint City Engineer's Office, with design assistance provided by the Illinois Bridge Company of Chicago. Illinois Bridge functioned as a licensee for Indianapolis engineer Daniel Luten, designing and building Luten's patented arches under royalty agreement. The 70-foot, skewed arch on West Second Street featured typical Luten detailing, with its distinctive "horseshoe" arch profile, corbelled arch ring, cantilevered deck and cast-concrete balusters. Estimating the bridge's cost at about $23,000, the city solicited competitive proposals in 1919 and received bids from the Illinois Bridge Company and the Price Brothers Construction Company of Lansing. Illinois Bridge bid $23,970, but Price's bid was lower by almost $900; the Lansing contractor was awarded the construction contract. The Price Brothers' crew began excavating for the abutments that summer, completing the West Second Avenue Bridge early the next year. It has since carried vehicular traffic in essentially unaltered condition. The bridge's Luten configuration, though typical of Flint bridges, was uncommon among highway bridges in Michigan. The Twelve-Mile Road Bridge in Calhoun County, identified by Charles Hyde as being built by the Illinois Bridge Company in 1907, may be the oldest Luten-design bridge in the state. The South Cass Street Bridge in Traverse City also uses a Luten configuration. No other Luten arches outside of Flint have been identified by Michigan's Bridge inventories, The West Second Street Bridge is thus distinguished as a well-preserved example of this important, though now rare, patented bridge type.
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