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Jefferson Avenue Bridge

Jefferson Avenue - Harbin Drive Bridge

Jefferson Avenue Bridge

Primary Photographer(s): Nathan Holth and Luke Gordon

Bridge Documented: August 1, 2005 and May 13, 2011

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Facility Carried / Feature Intersected
Jefferson Avenue Over Huron River
Rural: Wayne County, Michigan and Monroe County, Michigan: United States
Construction Date and Builder / Engineer
1931 By Builder/Contractor: W. J. Anschutz of Saginaw, Michigan and Engineer/Design: Michigan State Highway Department
Rehabilitation Date
Not Available or Not Applicable
Main Span Length
54.8 Feet (16.7 Meters)
Structure Length
165.0 Feet (50.3 Meters)
Roadway Width
36 Feet (10.97 Meters)
1 Main Span(s)
Inventory Number

Historic Significance Rating (HSR)
View Information About HSR Ratings

Bridge Documentation

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

The Jefferson Avenue Bridge and the Harbin Drive Bridge are two separate structures with different construction dates, but they have been made to have the appearance of a single bridge such as the Hill-To-Hill Bridge. As such, they contribute to each other, and it is impossible to discuss one of these bridges without including the other. This narrative and the accompanying photo gallery discusses and covers both bridges at once. However, the Key Facts, Technical Facts, and NBI Sheet on this page refer to the Jefferson Avenue Bridge. Switch pages here to view data for the Harbin Drive Bridge.

These bridges are interesting because they share a continuous railing, as shown on the above photo. The Harbin Drive Bridge, which is a concrete arch bridge, is actually older than the Jefferson Avenue Bridge, and all the railing on it. The railing, and some of the angling of the bridge was changed to match the Jefferson Avenue Bridge, which was built in 1930. MDOT mentions that the bridges are significant because they are the product of an Assessment District. The plaque on the bridge lists this as well. This is because Huron River forms the county line between Monroe and Wayne County.

The Harbin Drive Bridge looks quite attractive as an arch bridge, with its 1930 guardrails above. It has a bit of a slope to get up to Jefferson Avenue Bridge. This is probably one of the changes made to Harbin Avenue when Jefferson Avenue Bridge was built. As you approach the bridge from a distance, the dirt approaches for the bridge are clearly visible. The Jefferson Avenue Bridge was given some additional height when built to provide clearance for boats. Indeed, the 1930 bridge replaced a through truss swing bridge (hand-turned), so at the time the river was used for navigation. A photo of the swing bridge existing prior to this bridge is available to the right.  Note the endposts of a pony truss approach span are visible to the left in the photo, and a plaque is mounted on top of the portal bracing. However not enough detail of truss or plaque is visible to take a guess on the builder.

The Jefferson Avenue Bridge is a long example of the standard plan 1930s beam bridge style, with three spans. There are no weight limits present on either of the bridges, and the Jefferson Avenue Bridge carries a fair amount of traffic, including a good number of heavy trucks. This has deteriorated the deck a bit, and the trucks, which never seem to slow down, make an awful noise as they speed across the bridge. There should be a reduced speed limit to slow traffic down for safety, as well as for the wellbeing of the bridge.

Information and Findings From Michigan Historic Bridge Inventory

Narrative Description

The Jefferson Avenue and Harbin Drive Bridges are eligible for the National Register as an example of an assessment district project. In addition, the Jefferson Avenue Bridge is eligible as an early long-span stringer bridge.

The Covert Act, passed in 1915, authorized the state highway department to serve as the legal agent for road projects involving two or more counties. The state held hearings, let contacts, sold bonds, and took care of other administrative matters for a given project, while the affected communities established an assessment district to help fund the improvements. Assessment District No. 463, which spanned Wayne and Monroe Counties, was created to improve a section of Jefferson Avenue, an important route connecting Detroit and Toledo.

In 1930, the district and the state highway department jointly built a state reward bridge to carry Jefferson (also known as River Road) over the Huron River, the dividing line between the two counties. The new structure was designed by the state highway department. Although its design follows one of the department's standard plans, the bridge's three 55-foot spans are relatively long for that era. In the early twentieth century, the strongest I-beams manufactured by steel mills could span only 45 feet. In the late 1920s, new technology allowed mills to roll beams with deeper webs that could carry spans of up to 60 feet.

The Jefferson Avenue Bridge replaced a 102-foot swing span, a Warren truss, as well as a 45-foot Pratt pony truss approach span, both of which were in very poor condition. The swing span may have been moved to serve as a detour during the construction of the new structure.

The road grade by the new bridge was raised to eliminate the need for a movable span. The change in grade apparently necessitated a significant renovation of the adjacent Harbin Drive Bridge, which might have provided access to silica mines in the vicinity. The original construction date of the bridge is not known. In 1930, the spandrel walls and fill were removed and replaced. A new deck was built, and railings complementing the Jefferson Avenue Bridge were installed.


Photo Galleries and Videos: Jefferson Avenue Bridge


View Photo Gallery

Bridge Photo-Documentation

Original / Full Size Photos
A collection of overview and detail photos. 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

Bridge Photo-Documentation

Mobile Optimized Photos
A collection of overview and detail photos. This gallery features data-friendly, fast-loading photos in a touch-friendly popup viewer.
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View Video

Jefferson Ave. Southbound Crossing

Full Motion Video
Streaming video of the bridge. Also includes a higher quality downloadable video for greater clarity or offline viewing.


Maps and Links: Jefferson Avenue Bridge

Coordinates (Latitude, Longitude):

Search For Additional Bridge Listings:

Bridgehunter.com: View listed bridges within 0.5 miles (0.8 kilometers) of this bridge.

Bridgehunter.com: View listed bridges within 10 miles (16 kilometers) of this bridge.

HistoricBridges.org Bridge Browser: View listed bridges within 0.5 miles (0.8 kilometers) of this bridge.

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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