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Crystal Springs Street Bridge

Telegraph Road Bridge / M-86 Bridge

Crystal Springs Street Bridge

Primary Photographer(s): Nathan Holth

Bridge Documented: July 1, 2018

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Key Facts

Facility Carried / Feature Intersected
Crystal Springs Street Over Dowagiac River
Rural: Cass County, Michigan: United States
Construction Date and Builder / Engineer
1923 By Builder/Contractor: Unknown and Engineer/Design: Michigan State Highway Department

Technical Facts

Rehabilitation Date
Main Span Length
90 Feet (27.43 Meters)
Structure Length
90 Feet (27.43 Meters)
Roadway Width
27 Feet (8.23 Meters)
1 Main Span(s)
NBI Number

Historic Significance Rating (HSR)

Bridge Documentation

This bridge was relocated here and preserved for vehicular use. Please also see HistoricBridges.org's page for photos and documentation of the bridge in its previous location at M-86 in St. Joseph County.

Above: Bridge after completion of relocation project. Photo Courtesy Ben Lehman, DLZ

This bridge is built to the same state standard plan at the bridge in New Boston. Michigan developed a standard plan for pony truss bridges, but never for through truss bridges, likely due to the lack of many large rivers in the state. The bridge was originally built in 1923. The bridge does not retain its original railings, but it does retain a plaque on it. This is not the original plaque, however. It is a plaque that was put on when this bridge was moved from its original location on Telegraph Road over River Rouge in Wayne County, Michigan  to M-86 over Prairie River in 1938-1939. Here, the bridge replaced the former Prairie River Bridge which was a six panel pin-connected Pratt truss bridge with an 82 foot span. The M-86 Bridge is a camelback pony truss with riveted connections. The outside of the truss has cut rivets, empty rivet holes, evidence of plate that was cut, and remains of brackets. These are all visual indications that in its original 1923 location this bridge had cantilevered sidewalks. Design drawings for the relocation indicate this was removed when the bridge moved to St. Joseph County.

In 2013, MDOT had decided it wanted to replace this historic bridge, but worked an agreement to relocate and reuse the bridge on a county road, specifically Crystal Springs Street over the Dowagiac River south of Dowagiac in neighboring Cass County. This was an outstanding preservation solution, and it makes it the second time this versatile bridge has been relocated! The bridge was dismantled, restored, and reassembled in Cass County by Bach Steel, who restored the bridge using in-kind restoration techniques, replacing individual lacing bars, and using genuine historically correct hot rivets in all repair work, rather than using ugly modern bolts. An interesting bit of history was made during the project when the truss sections briefly returned to Wayne County for the first time since 1938, when they were shipped to Ojibway, Inc in Ecorse (Wayne County) Michigan for repainting. Bach Steel also completed the truss repairs at this location as well. The project was completed in 2018.

The relocation of this bridge is a great success story. It got this historic bridge off of busy M-86 where it was subjected to heavy truck traffic, and instead located it to a quiet county road that crosses the scenic Dowagiac River. It also marked an unusual but positive event in Cass County history, since Cass County was one of the counties in Michigan with the dubious distinction of being a  "truss-less" county, meaning a county that had lost or demolished all of its historic metal truss bridges. Cass County is now no longer a truss-less county!

Also of interest, at Crystal Springs Street, this bridge replaced a pre-stressed concrete box beam bridge built in 1961. Historic bridge enthusiasts will take pleasure in noting that a beautiful historic metal truss bridge from 1923 was more resilient than an ugly 1960s pre-stressed concrete bridge!

Above: Bridge after completion of relocation project. Photo Courtesy Ben Lehman, DLZ

Information and Findings From Michigan Historic Bridge Inventory

Narrative Description

The Michigan State Highway 86 Bridge is eligible for the National Register as a good example of a 1920s camelback pony truss. This structure also exemplifies the movability of a truss bridge.

According to limited records, this bridge was originally built in 1923, and was re-built at the present site in 1938-1939 by contractor L. W. Lamb. Bridge plans dated 1938 indicate that the only alteration to the original design was to eliminate two sidewalks, which had been cantilevered outside the trusses. Work was completed as part of a PWA federal relief work project directed by the Michigan State Highway Department. The previous location of the bridge is unknown. It replaced a pin-connected, 82-foot "low type through-truss span" with a 14.67-foot roadway.


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