How many states can claim in the 21st Century to still have the first state highway bridge ever built in the state still standing? Given that such a bridge would be very old, and given that state highways tend to have
higher traffic volumes, it is unlikely that such a bridge would survive in a particular state. However, Michigan can in fact claim to have the first bridge ever built for Michigan's state trunk line system still standing! The primary reason
that this bridge survives today is likely because it did not serve as a trunk line bridge for very long. By 1930, the bridge was replaced with a steel stringer bridge on a new and improved alignment for the trunk line. As such, the concrete
girder bridge was abandoned, and never needed to be demolished and replaced. If it had continued to serve trunk line traffic it would surely have been replaced, if for no other reason than that the bridge would end up being too narrow for
state trunk line traffic. In fact, even the 1930 bridge has not survived, since it was replaced in 1995.
As such, the bridge is highly significant since it marks the beginning of bridge construction by Michigan's state highway agency, then called the Michigan State Highway Department and today called Michigan Department of
Transportation. The bridge is also structurally significant. It is the longest straight chord concrete through girder bridge in Michigan. It would be the longest concrete girder of any type, except that the
Mottville Bridge, a curved chord through girder, has it beat. However, no other concrete girder in Michigan has more spans than the Peshekee River Bridge, which has six spans. It is
unusual to see the concrete through girder type, which was common for short crossings, used in a multi-span format for a longer river crossing. Finally, the bridge appears to be the oldest concrete girder in Michigan. Its age may be why the
bridge stylistically does not follow the state standard plans for straight chord through girder bridges, which generally date from 1916 onward. The Peshekee River Bridge is far more simple in appearance than the already simple appearance of
those state standard girders. The only architectural detailing on the bridge is simple inset rectangles on the outside of the girders. The bridge also does not have any bronze plaques that are a trademark of most state trunk line bridges.
Instead, a simple casting is in the girders reading "State Trunk Line Bridge 1914".
The bridge today continues to sit abandoned, but available to pedestrians within Van Riper State Park. As such, the bridge is today owned by the DNR. Despite the fact that the bridge has enjoyed a life away from traffic
and corrosive winter deicing salts, the bridge is nevertheless severely deteriorated. Widespread and severe spalling is present on the bridge. The deck's deterioration is not helped by the fact that dirt has built up on the deck and now
grass grows on the bridge. All of this traps moisture on the deck which causes deterioration. Standing water was observed on the bridge deck during the field visit because the water has no way to drain off the deck. The widespread
deterioration of the bridge has led to a weakening of the concrete girders. If viewed from the right angle, a slight sagging of each girder span in between piers can be seen.
Thank you to Frank Paris for scanning the historical photos on
this page, which are held by the Marquette County Road Commission.
Above: A post-1930 historical photo of Trunk Line Bridge #1,
with the 1930 bridge visible in the background.
A historical photo showing the 1930 replacement bridge and
alignment which ended Trunk Line Bridge #1's service as a Trunk Line Bridge.
This multiple-span concrete bridge is located in the Champion Beach County Park, about five miles east of the village of Michigamme. The structure carries an abandoned segment of US-41 over the Peshekee
River. It is situated between the current highway bridge (to the north) and the steel plate girder bridge of the Soo Line Railroad (to the south). Built in 1914 by the Michigan State Highway Department, the bridge is
comprised of a six 40-foot concrete through girders, carried by full-height concrete abutments and solid concrete piers with bullnosed cutwaters. The bridge illustrates prototypical MSHD design and detailing, with two
straight girders that carry the concrete slab deck. The modest architectural expression is provided by recessed rectangular panels in the girder walls, which are capped with heavy concrete copings. Cast into the guardrails on
both sides is "State Trunk Line Bridge 1914."
In 1913 the Michigan State Legislature passed the State Trunk Line Act, which authorized the designation of a trunk-line network totaling nearly 3000 miles. The act
stipulated that the state highway department would design, build and maintain trunk line bridges spanning 30 feet of more, if the county or local government improved three miles of adjacent road. Soon after its passage, a
mainline route across Marquette County was designated. The route extended from Marquette, the county seat, westward through Negaunee and Ishpeming to Michigamme on the Baraga County line. Near Michigamme it crossed the Peshekee
River. To entice the state highway department to build a bridge here, the Marquette County Road Commission built a three-mile stretch of the road in 1913. The department approved the bridge, turning its design over to MSHD
Bridge Engineer C.V. Dewart.
For the crossing, Dewart delineated this large-scale concrete bridge, designating it as Trunk Line Bridge No. 1. The structure would be massive, extending 240 feet and consuming some 600 cubic
yards of concrete. It featured, according to MSHD, "reinforced concrete construction throughout, in which all steel is bedded in concrete, which makes an absolutely permanent structure." The department hired contractors
Powell and Mitchell of Marquette to build the structure. They completed it in 1914 for a total cost of $11,129.70. The trunk line was later incorporated into US-41, and this bridge carried increasingly heavy traffic until its
subsequent abandonment in a highway re-alignment. Today it stands deteriorating and overgrown in a county park.
The concrete through girder that MSHD built here in 1914 used a design that the agency had just developed as
a medium-span standard. During the 1910s and 1920s, the highway department delineated straight girders in five-foot increments between 30 and 50 feet for use in a wide variety of application.
"The reinforced concrete
through girder is the design generally employed for spans from thirty to fifty feet in both the eighteen and twenty-foot clear roadway from curb to curb," MSHD stated in its Seventh Biennial Report. "This design lends itself in
the majority of cases on account of its very shallow floor system, thereby giving the waterway a maximum clearance under elevation of roadway crossing the bridge."
By 1930 the through girder had largely fallen out of
favor with the state and county highway departments, but before it was discontinued, perhaps hundreds of thes utilitarian structures were built throughout Michigan. The Trunk Line Bridge No. 1 in Marquette county is
technologically significant as the prototype for this important design. It is also historically significant as the first trunk line bridge designed by the state highway department and as a pivotal crossing on one of the Upper
Peninsula's most important routes. Although deteriorated, the Trunk Line Bridge No. 1 is today distinguished as one of Michigan's most important vehicular bridges.
This bridge is tagged with the following special condition(s): Unorganized Photos
Photo Galleries and Videos: Old US-41 Peshekee River Bridge
Original / Full Size Photos A collection of overview and detail photos. This gallery offers photos in the highest available resolution and file size in a touch-friendly popup viewer. Alternatively, Browse Without Using Viewer
Mobile Optimized Photos A collection of overview and detail photos. This gallery features data-friendly, fast-loading photos in a touch-friendly popup viewer. Alternatively, Browse Without Using Viewer
Original / Full Size Photos A supplemental collection of photos that are from additional visit(s) to the bridge and have not been organized or captioned. This gallery offers photos in the highest available resolution and file size in a touch-friendly popup viewer. Alternatively, Browse Without Using Viewer
Mobile Optimized Photos A supplemental collection of photos that are from additional visit(s) to the bridge and have not been organized or captioned. This gallery features data-friendly, fast-loading photos in a touch-friendly popup viewer. Alternatively, Browse Without Using Viewer