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Big Hill Road Bridge

Big Hill Road Bridge

Primary Photographer(s): Nathan Holth

Bridge Documented: 2006

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Facility Carried / Feature Intersected
Big Hill Road Over Fawn River
Rural: St. Joseph County, Michigan: United States
Construction Date and Builder / Engineer
1905 By Builder/Contractor: Unknown
Rehabilitation Date
Not Available or Not Applicable
Main Span Length
82.0 Feet (25 Meters)
Structure Length
84.0 Feet (25.6 Meters)
Roadway Width
15.7 Feet (4.79 Meters)
1 Main Span(s)
Inventory 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 single home on a dead-end was demolished and replaced with a modern two lane bridge in 2007!

This bridge was an impressive pony truss, with a length over 80 feet, making it among the longest pony truss spans in Michigan. It included a fairly large top chord for a pin-connected truss bridge, due to its decent length, and its built-up beams added complexity and beauty to the bridge including v-lacing under the top chord and on the vertical members. Lattice guardrails remained on this bridge. This bridge was actually open to traffic with a three ton weight limit. It could easily have been rehabilitated to support far more weight. The deck was a rare concrete jack-arch deck, consisting of concrete poured between steel deck stringers with arched corrugated steel spanning between the stringers to act as a base for the concrete to set upon. Faint traces of silvery-grey paint remained on parts of the bridge. Steel on the bridge was from the Cambria Steel mills, as the markings indicated. Eye-bars on the bottom chord were of the loop-forged variety. The bridge was composed of five panels. The structure had experienced some rusting in the bottom connections, and pack rust was pushing up parts of the cover plate for the top chord. These issues could easily have been corrected inexpensively through rehabilitation. This bridge crossed the river in a small river valley but with a reasonably steep drop-off on the north side.

This bridge carried "traffic" on a dead-end road that served a single house. The listed Average Daily Traffic was listed as 15, likely an exaggeration unless the owners of the house drive back and forth a lot. 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 15 serving one house 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.


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Maps and Links: Big Hill Road Bridge

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

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HistoricBridges.org Bridge Browser: View listed bridges within 10 miles (16 kilometers) of this bridge.

2021 National Bridge Inventory: View listed bridges within 0.5 miles (0.8 kilometers) of this bridge.

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