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, probably because the hired out-of-state consultant who produced the inventory was not adequately versed in Michigan bridge history.
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 decorative concrete encasement over the outermost stringer (fascia beam) to give the bridge an overall appearance of a concrete bridge when it was in fact a steel stringer. This plan was abandoned for the new plan which did not include the concrete facade on any stringer 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 Berry Road Bridge, with a construction date of 1932, features the R4 railings, but also features the concrete facade seen in the concrete balustrade plan bridges of the late 1920s and early 1930s.
The R4 railings on Berry Road were determined to be original (and not a later alteration/addition) because the inset design on their concrete railing posts 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. Further, the railings showed signs of major rusting and deterioration, something more common on the oldest R4 railings. The later instances of R4 railings in the 1950s and 1960s were galvanized and have held up better.
Constructed in 1932, the Berry Road Bridge is not only one of the earliest surviving examples of a bridge using the R4 railing design, it appears to have indeed been built in the very first year the railing was ever used in Michigan. All older examples identified in Michigan used the concrete balustrade railings. This new metal R4 railing design would go on to be used extensively in Michigan for the next 30 years, and indeed defined the appearance and aesthetics of Michigan bridges for the middle part of the 20th century. Even today, bridge historians and the general public alike associate this railing design with Michigan. Only Canada (particularly Ontario) used a similar railing design extensively. As such, this bridge should be considered historically significant as a prototypical example of a bridge and railing design that would go on to dominate Michigan bridge construction for decades. The bridge is an exceedingly rare example of this prototype design, with the 108th Avenue Bridge being the only other identified example.
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.
Unfortunately, the Berry Road Bridge's railings have suffered from severe deterioration. A lack of paint on them combined with winter deicing salts likely contributed to this. Preservation of this bridge would likely require replacement of the railings, however MDOT reportedly maintains a stock of R4 railings salvaged from other replacement projects, and in addition R4 railings could still be refabricated today if needed.
Although the National Bridge Inventory structural ratings suggest that rehabilitation would have been feasible for this bridge (Superstructure: Poor  Substructure: Fair  Deck: Poor ), Jackson County has chosen to demolish and replace this historic bridge. The configuration of Michigan's Local Bridge Program may have contributed to the decision to replace this bridge, since it provides demolition and replacement funds just as easily as rehabilitation funds, even if replacement might be more costly. With the demolition of this bridge, the 108th Avenue Bridge might be the only example of this prototypical design left in Michigan.
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This historic bridge has been demolished. This map is shown for reference purposes only.
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