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Gratiot Avenue Southbound Bridge

Gratiot Avenue Southbound Bridge

Primary Photographer(s): Nathan Holth

Bridge Documented: Spring 2007

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Facility Carried / Feature Intersected
Gratiot Avenue Over Clinton River
Mt. Clemens: Macomb County, Michigan: United States
Construction Date and Builder / Engineer
1919 By Builder/Contractor: Thomas E. Currie of Detroit, Michigan
Rehabilitation Date
Not Available or Not Applicable
Main Span Length
83.0 Feet (25.3 Meters)
Structure Length
240.8 Feet (73.4 Meters)
Roadway Width
45.3 Feet (13.81 Meters)
3 Main Span(s)
Inventory Number

Historic Significance Rating (HSR)
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Bridge Documentation

This bridge no longer exists!

View Archived National Bridge Inventory Report - Has Additional Details and Evaluation

This historic bridge was demolished and replaced in 2010 by MDOT!

This bridge is a three span concrete arch bridge, with earth fill. The bridge has had its original guardrails removed, which greatly detracts from the aesthetic qualities of the structure. In fact, most people probably don't know that this bridge is so old it was only the 256th bridge ever built as a trunkline bridge. The original plaque, set into the new guardrails remains to tell the fact. The plaque also mentions Rapid Railway Co, so this bridge must have once carried some sort of railroad tracks across its deck as well when it was built. MDOT's site lists this bridge as the sixth largest surviving earth filled concrete arch bridge in the state, at a length of 241 feet. MDOT lists the construction date as 1920, although the plaque lists a date of 1919. The bridge does not have a weight limit and continues to carry heavy traffic, testifying to the strength of the structure.

A photo from the 1922 Biennial Report of the Michigan State Highway Department featured a photo of the bridge with its original railings.

According to Michigan Department of Transportation, the Gratiot Avenue Bridge is a bridge for which repair and/or rehabilitation is impossible due to a problem with the design of the bridge which includes spread footings in the substructure. MDOT provided the following explanation:

The construction of the bridge simply does not allow piles to be installed to combat scour without compromising the structural integrity of the bridge. Drilling the cores for the piles would go through rebar. And the spread footing of course cannot be excavated without again compromising the pier completely. So scour at the piers cannot be addressed without completely rebuilding the bridge, thus destroying the historic integrity. The construction of the bridge itself coupled with the spread footings is a bad combination in this instance.

Therefore, MDOT has no alternative buy to replace it with a mundane modern bridge with no heritage value whatsoever. How should MDOT respond in a situation where the preservation of a historic bridge is found to be impossible? In the view of HistoricBridges.org, MDOT should commit to the preservation of another of Michigan's concrete arch bridges for which preservation is possible. The Fulton Street Bridge in Grand Rapids appears to be the best candidate (whose preservation would include replication of the bridge's original railings), although the BL-196 Bridge would also be acceptable.

As part of Section 106 mitigation, MDOT has committed to produce interpretive signage to describe the historic bridge and its heritage. 

During a public involvement stage of the planning process, the public commented that they wanted the replacement bridge to have an arch shape to it. To fulfill those requests, MDOT will attach a fake arch-shaped facade to the outside of the replacement bridge which is little more than an ugly pre-stressed slab of concrete.  If the general public wanted the replacement bridge to have an arch-like appearance and some aesthetic value to it, than that is fine. However, to compare the replacement bridge to the historic bridge in any way is extremely misleading, and to claim the that replacement bridge has any relationship to the design or heritage value of the historic bridge is untrue. MDOT was quoted in a newspaper saying "Even though it will be a new bridge it will keep the same architectural integrity and aesthetics of the bridge it will replace..." This statement is essentially untrue. The architecture of the Gratiot Avenue Bridge was uniform with the physical bridge superstructure, because the architecture of the bridge... that of a series of arches... was also the functioning superstructure.  Since the entire superstructure has been removed, all of the architectural integrity has been lost. Retaining the architectural integrity as part of a replacement project would have required leaving the original spandrel walls in place, while removing the earthen fill and placing the replacement bridge beams in between the spandrel walls. This would be similar to what was done with the open spandrel Pearl Street Bridge in Grand Rapids, although because of the spread footings problem, this would not have worked on the Gratiot Avenue Bridge. Further, the original aesthetics of the historic Gratiot Avenue Bridge will be completely lost. The shape of the arch facades are different on the replacement bridge. Further, the stone stamps placed on the concrete of the replacement attempt to replicate a stone arch not a concrete arch, and in reality they don't even replicate a stone arch very well. Finally, the railings placed on the replacement bridge do not replicate the original railings on the bridge. Thus, both the architectural integrity and aesthetic integrity have been lost in the replacement. Because the historic bridge has been determined impossible to rehabilitate, there is really nothing else to be done in this regard. However that doesn't mean that misleading statements should be made about the replacement bridge. It is unclear what MDOT meant with this statement.


Photo Galleries and Videos: Gratiot Avenue Southbound Bridge


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2010 Bridge Photo-Documentation

Original / Full Size Photos
A collection of overview and detail photos, taken August 26, 2010. This gallery offers photos in the highest available resolution and file size in a touch-friendly popup viewer.
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View Photo Gallery

2010 Bridge Photo-Documentation

Mobile Optimized Photos
A collection of overview and detail photos, taken August 26, 2010. This gallery features data-friendly, fast-loading photos in a touch-friendly popup viewer.
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Additional Photo-Documentation

A collection of overview and detail photos, taken Summer 2007 as well as a few photos from previous years. This photo gallery contains a combination of Original Size photos and Mobile Optimized photos in a touch-friendly popup viewer.
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Maps and Links: Gratiot Avenue Southbound Bridge

This historic bridge has been demolished. This map is shown for reference purposes only.

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HistoricBridges.org Bridge Browser: View listed bridges within 10 miles (16 kilometers) of this bridge.

2021 National Bridge Inventory: View listed bridges within 0.5 miles (0.8 kilometers) of this bridge.

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