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Mortimer E. Cooley Bridge

M-55 Pine River Bridge

Mortimer E. Cooley Bridge

Primary Photographer(s): Nathan Holth

Bridge Documented: June 12, 2009

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Key Facts

Facility Carried / Feature Intersected
M-55 (Caberfae Highway) Over Pine River
Rural: Manistee County, Michigan: United States
Construction Date and Builder / Engineer
1934 By Builder/Contractor: Wisconsin Bridge and Iron Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Engineer/Design: Michigan State Highway Department

Technical Facts

Rehabilitation Date
Main Span Length
300 Feet (91.4 Meters)
Structure Length
613 Feet (186.8 Meters)
Roadway Width
30 Feet (9.14 Meters)
3 Main Span(s)
NBI Number

Historic Significance Rating (HSR)
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Bridge Documentation

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

Unlike hillier states like Pennsylvania, Michigan does not have the massive, steep river valleys that required the construction of large high-level bridges in many locations. The Pine River, which is really a small creek cutting a large valley, is a notable exception. The only other bridge that compares to this structure is this bridge's larger and strikingly similar brother, the Cut River Bridge in the U.P.

The Cooley Bridge is nevertheless an impressive structure, and is among Michigan's rarest truss bridge types. It is highly attractive with most beams on the bridge being built-up with v-lacing and/or lattice. Similar to Cut River, there is a stairway that leads down beside the bridge for the purpose of viewing the bridge. The bridge always had stairways, suggesting that even when this bridge was built it was considered a noteworthy structure and attraction in Michigan. The fact that the bridge is today well-maintained and preserved is evidence that the bridge even today continues to be respected as a Michigan  historic landmark and attraction.

This bridge was rehabbed and among the work done was MDOT's unique method of installing new railing posts with replicated architectural treatment, galvanizing and putting back into place the original railings which serve as sidewalk railings, and also placing low-profile crash-resistant "two tube" railing in front of the original railings for vehicles. This solution is a good solution that retains the aesthetic and historic qualities of the original railings, while also providing crash-resistant and AASHTO approved guardrails which do not overly obstruct the view of the bridge, original railings, or scenery from the bridge.

In 1935 the bridge won the American Institute of Steel Construction's Class C award for Most Beautiful Bridge, a noteworthy accomplishment, since AISC's awards are given only to a small number of bridges nationwide each year. A plaque on the bridge displays this information.

Information and Findings From Michigan Historic Bridge Inventory

Narrative Description

M-55 / Pine River

The Mortimer E. Cooley Bridge is one of only two cantilevered deck truss bridges in Michigan. This structure is notable on aesthetic grounds as well, as the winner of the American Institute of Steel Construction Award in 1936 for the most beautiful structure in its class. This is also a large bridge, with an overall length of 555 feet.


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