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108th Street Bridge

108th Street Bridge

Primary Photographer(s): Nathan Holth

Bridge Documented: September 3, 2009

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Key Facts

Facility Carried / Feature Intersected
108th Street Over Thornapple River
Rural: Barry County, Michigan and Kent County, Michigan: United States
Construction Date and Builder / Engineer
1932 By Builder/Contractor: Willits Brothers Construction Company of Bay City, Michigan and Engineer/Design: Michigan State Highway Department

Technical Facts

Rehabilitation Date
Not Available or Not Applicable
Main Span Length
74.8 Feet (22.8 Meters)
Structure Length
150 Feet (45.72 Meters)
Roadway Width
40 Feet (12.19 Meters)
2 Main Span(s)
NBI Number

Historic Significance Rating (HSR)

Bridge Documentation

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

This bridge appears to be one of Michigan's most important metal stringer bridges, although the historic bridge inventory apparently did not recognize its significance. This appears to be one of the oldest examples of a bridge with original R4 railings in the state, and is also an example of a bridge which was either a transitional bridge or a prototype bridge as the state highway department moved from one standard plan to a new standard plan for stringer bridges. The old plan included stringers with a unique concrete balustrade design and a concrete facade over the outermost stringer to give the bridge an overall appearance of a concrete bridge when it was in face a steel stringer. This plan was abandoned for the new plan which did not include the concrete facade on any beams, and began the use of R4 railings. Most of the other earliest instances of bridges with original R4 railings on them are dated to around 1935, while the last of the concrete facade and balustrade stringers date to 1932 or earlier. The 108th Avenue Bridge, with a construction date of 1932, features the R4 railings, but also features the general pier design and concrete facade seen in the concrete balustrade plan bridges of the late 1920s and early 1930s. The R4 railings on 108th Avenue were determined to be original (and not a later alteration/addition) because the inset design on their concrete railing is the oldest design. If the railings were not original they would have more than likely featured the more common keyhole design on the concrete railing posts. In addition no alteration to the bridge is recorded or was observed during on-site inspection.

As such, the 108th Avenue Bridge appears to be an extremely rare bridge which shows a transition from a bridge like Cleveland Avenue Bridge to bridges like the US-41 Sturgeon River Bridge.

R4 railings are the decorative railings that would give the gift of beauty to Michigan stringer bridges until the 1960s. For roughly 30 years, Michigan used these railing panels, fitted between railing post designs that varied over time and from bridge to bridge between a few different styles. The R4 railing has defined much of Michigan's 20th century historic bridges.


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