There appear to have been only two curved-chord through girder bridges in Michigan that were three-span railroad overpasses. When one of those two bridges was destroyed some time ago, this Genesee Road bridge became one-of-a-kind. Since Michigan is the only state this type of bridge was used with frequency, this bridge was probably the only one of its kind in the whole country.
Lapeer County Road Commission decided that the best way to deal with such a unique treasure was to destroy it. This rare bridge was reduced to rubble sometime between the summer of 2003 and the summer of 2004, representing one of the greatest crimes against Michigan's historic bridges ever recorded.
This bridge did not need to be torn down, and should not have been. The weight limit for cars on this bridge was a generous 44 tons, and for long trucks, 54 tons. This was more than what was needed for this road. Genesee Road is just not that busy of a route these days.
Genesee Road was once part of M-21, which before I-69 was built in this area, was a major route. M-21 was designed to be efficient like an expressway, although it was a two lane road. Rather that go through towns, M-21 passed just outside of nearby towns, so that there was little need for stoplights or reduced speed limits. This road was important for people who wanted to get directly from Port Huron to Flint and beyond. When I-69 was completed, most people heading to Flint or further would have just started using the expressway. People heading into towns before Flint would use whatever road would take them directly to the town. After M-21 was decommissioned east of Flint, the control of Genesee Road would have reverted back to the county. The county must have realized some time after this happened, that in the area that this bridge is, Davison Road, an east-west road just north of Genesee Road was more important to non-expressway traffic than was Genesee Road. Davison Road led right into Davison, rather than passing by the outskirts, like Genesee Road. The county appears to have adjusted the roads so that Genesee Road curves into and automatically becomes Davison Road. To continue on Genesee Road, a person needs to use Lake Nepessing Road to get to it. Going west out of Lapeer on Genesee Road, as you approach this area you can clearly see how the road curves now, and how it once went straight. The result? Most traffic, including the heavy trucks, all take Davison Road. Locals, people out for a pleasant drive, and people looking for historic bridges turn and continue on Genesee Road.
The weight limit was very high on this bridge, as historic bridges go. There are two alternatives very close to this bridge that heavy trucks can take. One is I-69 the other is Davison Road. What this bridge needed was some repairs. The concrete was falling apart on some spots, which perhaps some patching would fix. The bridge could have been coated with a protective sealant. Finally, the deck could have been repaired, which would have improved the riding quality.
Replacing this bridge was a waste of taxpayer money. Since the bridge had a generous 41-50-54 ton weight limit, most traffic could use this bridge. Some deck surface repairs and a protective painting of the concrete would have been a cheaper and nicer way to go. Lapeer County Road Commission should be ashamed of itself.
A special thank you to Craig A. Gardner, who was kind enough to provide photos from some time ago, when the bridge was in better shape, one a magnificent side view of the bridge, and and the other a photo of the plaque that was no longer on the bridge at the time of demolition.
If you visit the Historic American Engineering Record site, be sure to read the data sheets for a laugh, as the road commission's excuses for demolition are in it. The documentation says that the road commission sought replacement of this bridge when an inspection revealed that a weight limit of 50 tons had to be enforced. This is a poor excuse, since rehabilitation could likely bring the weight limit up to that, and besides the detour for 50 ton trucks is not far, either a couple miles south on I-69 or a couple miles north on Davison Road.
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