As one travels down I-94 between Detroit and the Michigan State Line in southwestern Michigan, they can see many bridges that were built in the late 1950s and early 1960s that are the same design as this bridge. However, the observant traveler will notice that very few of these bridges, known as curved t-beam bridges, retain their original decorative railings with no modern railings added. These bridges, which either have their railings totally replaced with concrete New Jersey barriers, or have steel Armco railings bolted in front of the original railings, not only lose historic integrity, but also look a lot less attractive visually. Also, anyone who has traveled other expressways in Michigan will find that these curved t-beams are on other expressways, but in much more limited quantities, with far less of those actually retaining those original railings. MDOT has recently been bolting modern Armco guardrails onto a number of these bridges. These railings seem to be added as part of repair projects done on the bridge. Although there are certain guardrail standards on the books that agencies like MDOT follow to the letter, the reality is that the original railings themselves, particularly on rural paved road like 23 Mile Road, are quite safe. The railings on 23 Mile Road Bridge show no signs that a vehicle has ever even crashed into them once. On a relatively quiet, straight road like this, it appears that vehicle-railing collisions just are not occurring. It is not a truck route, so in most cases, if a collision does occur, it seems likely that the existing railings would do their job. If there are still concerns for safety, there are other guardrail types, such as those installed on the Maple Road Bridge, that would obscure the view of the original railings less than Armco guardrails.
As us-highways.com quotes on its main page, "Thanks to the Interstate Highway System, it is now possible to travel across the country from coast to coast without seeing anything. From the Interstate, America is all steel guardrails and plastic signs, and every place looks and feels and sounds and smells like every other place." (Charles Kuralt, On the Road with Charles Kuralt). Bridges like the 23 Mile Road Bridge are a rare case where a traveler can see something on the Interstate that isn't just plain and boring. These bridges would make great candidates for restorations which leave the railings intact because they are bridges that are visible and seen by thousands upon thousands of people daily. In 1995, the Average Daily Traffic (ADT) under this bridge was reported at 28,000! In other words a population equivalent to a small city passes under this bridge daily!
If you visit this bridge from on 23 Mile Road, be sure to head south a couple miles where you will find another historic bridge.
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