This bridge could also be referred to as the "M-44 / M-91 Bridge" as it carries both facilities over the Flat River and the Mid-Michigan Railroad. The Mid-Michigan Railroad was originally the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway Company. The road that carries M-44 and M-91 signage is named State Street in town, and is known as Belding Road outside of town.
This bridge is similar to the I-69 / I-94 Bridge in Port Huron. Not only do both bridges have the insignificant relationship that they carry a cosigned highway over multiple features below, they are significantly related in that both are cantilevered deck plate girder bridges. The Belding Bridge has a greater deal of historic integrity however and is perhaps a glimpse at what the Port Huron structure might have once looked like.
This bridge has been repaired/restored in recent years. MDOT took into consideration the historic nature of this bridge, because they were sure to keep the panels of the original railing on the bridge, rather than removing them completely. They removed the original guardrail posts and placed modern metal posts in. These posts hold the modern steel railings up on the road side. Behind the modern railings, the original guardrail panels were mounted in between each post. As a result, the bridge retains its same general appearance especially when viewed from a distance. The bridge deck was also redone. Corrugated steel forms the base, with concrete on top. The superstructure of the bridge was painted grey.
Information and Findings From Michigan Historic Bridge Inventory
This multiple-span concrete/steel bridge crosses over the Flat River and the Railroad tracks for the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway Company. Located in the village of Belding, the structure carries Highway M-44. It was dedicated in 1950 as the Veterans Memorial Bridge. Extending a total of 414 feet.
The structure is made up of four steel girder spans that cantilever over the piers to form alternating anchor and suspended spans. These are supported by cast steel bearing shoes that rest on concrete abutments and spill-through piers. The abutments have stepped concrete wingwalls; the spill-through piers feature battered columns with modest recessed panels and straight cross-beams. The variable-depth, deck girders (two per span) are made up of steel plate webs, with riveted angle flanges and web stiffeners. They are braced laterally by crossed steel angles. The girders support and asphalt-covered, concrete deck with pedestrian walkways on both sides. Flanking the walkways are MSHD standard, decorative steel guardrails with concrete bulkheads and posts. In physically good condition, the Veterans Memorial Bridge has functioned in place since its completion with only maintenance-related repairs.
By the late 1940s the existing Belding Road bridge over the Flat River in Belding had become a serious bottleneck to traffic. In 1949 engineers for the Michigan State Highway Department designed a replacement structure. MSHD designated the bridge a Federal Aid Secondary project, solicited competitive bids for its construction and awarded the contract to L.A. Davidson. Davidson completed the Flat River Bridge the next year for $258,929.47. This cost was divided among the Bureau of Public Roads, the Michigan State highway Department and the C&O Railroad. Built soon after the end of World War II, it was dedicated as the Veterans Memorial Bridge to the war veterans of Belding and vicinity on October 28, 1950. Since then it has carried vehicular traffic in essentially unaltered condition.
The bridge's steel girder configuration is one that MSHD used extensively for bridges in the 1930s and 1940s. Although the highway department had delineated a standard steel stringer design as early as the 1905-1906 biennium, the relatively shallow I-beams that were being fabricated by the steel mills limited their span - first to30 feet, later to 45 feet. When the mills began producing deeper beams in the late 1920s, MSHD could extend the spans of its steel stringer bridges. When this type of structure was first put in use, MSHD state in 1930, rolled sections of sufficient strength were not available for spans greater than about forty-five feet. It was necessary, therefore, to use relatively shallow fabricated deck girders for spans greater that forty-five feet.
Rather recently, however, steel mills have improved their methods and are able to furnish rolled section which on proper spacing, are suitable for spans up to sixty feet. For its long-span bridges in high-traffic locations, MSHD often substituted plate girders for rolled beams, and for its longest girder structures, it cantilevered the channel for spans from arms of the adjacent anchor spans. The Veterans Memorial Bridge in Ionia County is noteworthy among these cantilevered girder bridges for its relatively long span and its well-preserved condition. A locally prominent landmark, it is both historically and technologically significant.
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