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Balk Road Bridge

Balk Road Bridge

Primary Photographer(s): Nathan Holth

Bridge Documented: November 4, 2005

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Key Facts

Facility Carried / Feature Intersected
Balk Road Over Fawn River
Rural: St. Joseph County, Michigan: United States
Construction Date and Builder / Engineer
1910 By Builder/Contractor: Unknown

Technical Facts

Rehabilitation Date
Not Available or Not Applicable
Main Span Length
84 Feet (25.6 Meters)
Structure Length
85 Feet (25.9 Meters)
Roadway Width
13 Feet (3.96 Meters)
1 Main Span(s)
NBI Number

Historic Significance Rating (HSR)
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Bridge Documentation

This bridge no longer exists!

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

This historic bridge, which served a few homes on a dead-end road was demolished and replaced with a modern two lane bridge in 2009!

This bridge was an impressive pony truss, with a length over 80 feet, making it among the longest pony truss spans in Michigan. More significant however was its unusual design. First, it was composed of lightweight members, using angles as the primary rolled steel type. No channels, no v-lacing, and no lattice was found on this bridge as a result of using the lightweight angles instead. Also unusual was the double-Warren truss configuration. This was one of the few examples of this truss configuration in Michigan. The bridge was unaltered and had excellent historic integrity. It rested on caissons, and there was a plate steel retaining wall behind the caissons, the caissons and retaining wall combining to form an abutment system.

This bridge was actually open to traffic with a three ton weight limit. However, it could easily have been rehabilitated to support more weight. The bridge was overall not in very bad condition.

This bridge carried "traffic" on a dead-end road that served a few homes only. The listed Average Daily Traffic was listed as a mere 11. As mentioned before, this bridge could have easily been rehabilitated to have a much higher weight limit than three tons. But how did the St. Joseph County Road Commission decide to spend tax dollars? Instead, this bridge which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was demolished and replaced with a two lane bridge. This bridge could have likely been rehabilitated for far less than the cost of replacement. And a two-lane bridge on a dead-end road with an ADT of 11 serving a few homes is clearly an excessive waste of tax dollars. You can thank flawed federal and state funding programs for encouraging the road commissions to make such wasteful decisions. The road commission likely paid very little for this new bridge, since state and/or federal sources would have forked over the majority of the money. Regardless of the source however, this is your tax dollars. Is it wise to spend so much money to obliterate history when that history could have been preserved while also saving taxpayer money?

Finally, even if the bridge was to be replaced, it is most unfortunately that the road commission did not carefully dismantle this bridge and place it into storage as nearby Indiana does with many historic bridges it replaced. This would have kept the bridge available for reuse. The bridge could have been a great structure to restore and reuse on a non-motorized trail somewhere. However, the road commission did not place this bridge in storage. Nor does it appear to have contacted any of the people who work with historic bridges in Michigan to see if they would have been interested in preserving the bridge in a new location. Instead, they condemned it to the scrapyard.

A rendering of the replacement "bridge" if the ugly slab of concrete can be called such is shown below.


Photo Galleries and Videos: Balk Road Bridge

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Maps and Links: Balk Road Bridge

This historic bridge has been demolished. This map is shown for reference purposes only.

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