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2021 Update: Photos have been added showing the replacement bridge. Photos of this replacement were added because there are several documented attempts to "memorialize" Michigan's historic concrete camelback bridges after demolition, but this is the first attempt where the "memorial" looks even remotely like the historic bridge. It does not excuse demolition, but it is nevertheless less offensive than other similar attempts at a memorial. Although the proportions are slightly off as the new bridge is longer than the historic bridge, and the details along the edges of the architectural details are not a refined as on the historic bridge, visitors to this location can at least get a somewhat accurate sense of what the historic bridge looked like. Examples of less successful attempts can be seen in Kent County and Montmorency County.
This concrete camelback bridge, also known as a curved-chord through girder, appears to be the last of its kind in Calhoun County. The structure was built in 1922, and as a result is a very old example of this structure type.
The treatment of concrete camelback bridges like this one has been no better than the treatment that truss bridges get. They have survived because they were built later than most truss bridges and they were significantly overbuilt which has helped them have a long life. The bridges of this type that have been demolished are usually because these bridges are not quite wide enough to comfortably support two lanes. The preservation of these unique bridges, which were designed by Michigan and built in no other state, is important to honor and remember Michigan's innovation in the development of effective transportation systems. In addition, preservation allows these visually pleasing structure to continue to add to the desirability of the roadway and surrounding area.
Sadly, Calhoun County has done little to nothing to help extend the service life of this historic bridge. A visit to the bridge in late 2012 showed that the edges of the bridge's deck had up to four inches of dirt and grass buildup. Dirt traps moisture on the deck, and moisture leads to deterioration. Worse, the dirt can clog up or obstruct the drains on the bridge, only making the moisture buildup worse. Funding may be tight, but removing dirt from a deck can be done by maintenance crews who are already paid and on staff at the road commission. Fixing the problem in the early stages might have involved a pothole filling crew briefly stopping at the bridge and sweep off the deck. Even now, removing the excessive buildup of dirt might only take a small in-house crew a couple hours to dig out and sweep away.
Information and Findings From Michigan Historic Bridge Inventory
The 23 Mile Road Bridge is eligible for the National Register as one of the oldest well-preserved examples of the state's unique curved-chord through-girder design. The Michigan State Highway Department developed its standard for the design in the 1921-1922 biennium, and built the first bridge of this type, a 90-foot span over the Raisin River at Tecumseh, in 1922. Concrete through-girder bridges fell from favor by the end of that decade because they could not be widened to accommodate increasing traffic volumes and loads.
Plans for the 23 Mile Road Bridge were prepared by the state highway department in January 1922. The bridge was subsequently built by Calhoun County as a state reward bridge. The contractor, Mead Brothers of Battle Creek, Michigan, had to dismantle the superstructure of the previous bridge, probably a steel truss, before erecting the new concrete span. Construction cost of the new bridge totaled $10,353.
This bridge is tagged with the following special condition(s): Unorganized Photos
This historic bridge has been demolished. This map is shown for reference purposes only.
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