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M-69 Paint River Bridge

Superior Avenue Bridge

M-69 Paint River Bridge

Primary Photographer(s): Randy Mulder

Bridge Documented: June 8, 2010

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Key Facts

Facility Carried / Feature Intersected
M-69 (Superior Avenue) Over Paint River
Rural: Iron County, Michigan: United States
Construction Date and Builder / Engineer
1924 By Builder/Contractor: Smith-Holmes-Burridge-Sparks of Houghton, Michigan and Engineer/Design: Michigan State Highway Department

Technical Facts

Rehabilitation Date
Main Span Length
131 Feet (39.9 Meters)
Structure Length
262 Feet (79.8 Meters)
Roadway Width
26 Feet (7.92 Meters)
2 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

This bridge is a good example of a compromise preservation solution. This historic bridge was the recipient of a project that could be described as an extremely heavy/invasive rehabilitation, or a partial replacement project. The only original bridge materials present are the arch ring, pier, and abutment. Everything else has been replaced. However, the replaced elements appear to have been replicated quire closely. Architectural detailing of the rebuilt portions of the superstructure, as well as the design of the concrete balustrade railings, as well as decorative lighting on the bridge appear to replicate the original design. It is worth noting that based on MDOT's photo of the bridge below, that the original railings had already been lost prior to this project, so the placement of replica railings on the bridge as part of the project was a clear step forward. Modern "two-tube" type guiderails were placed in front to provide a guiderail that meets requirements for vehicular traffic safety. These low visual impact guiderails are used by MDOT in a number of historic bridge preservation projects because they can be combined with original railings and do not detract visually from the historic bridge.

The goal in historic preservation is to maintain original materials whenever possible. Unfortunately, neglect of historic bridges in the past has been a serious problem with concrete bridges. As such, this bridge's preservation was not optimal from that perspective. However, concrete is much harder than metal to repair when it deteriorates severely.  As such, the bridge is a good example of a compromise, which allowed the bridge to be brought back to a good structural condition capable of handling current loading requirements, while also retaining the original design and overall visual appearance of the bridge. As agencies plan for the preservation of concrete bridges, this bridge should serve as an example to follow only when other preservation alternatives that retain more original material have been found to be not feasible.

Information and Findings From Michigan Historic Bridge Inventory

M-69 / Paint River

Narrative Description

This two-span bridge was designed by the Michigan State Highway Department and constructed by the contracting firm of Smith-Holmes-Burridge-Sparks. It features attractive decorative lamp posts and railings.


Photo Galleries and Videos: M-69 Paint River Bridge

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Maps and Links: M-69 Paint River Bridge

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