FOX 66 News at Ten
Talk of expanding I-75 in Saginaw County for holiday and summer travel is on the minds of drivers across Mid-Michigan, but the state already has thousands of bridges that are in bad condition.
So why is the Michigan Department of Transportation planning on spending big bucks on widening a local highway instead of fixing old bridges?
"We had a number of residents attend and we were able to answer their questions regarding the project," said MDOT spokesperson Anita Richardson.
Richardson is talking about a public meeting held earlier this week by MDOT to discuss a proposed reconstruction project on I-75. Richardson says the project would expand to four lanes in both directions from Dixie Highway in Bridgeport to Hess Road in Buena Vista Township. The project woundn't begin until 2015.
After Wednesday's meeting, WNEM TV5 patrons wanted to know why expanding the interstate was such a priority when there are still bridges like the one at King Road and I-75 that still need to be fixed.
"Shouldn't every dollar be made available to fix the bridges first before you go into expanding I-75?" asked TV5's James Felton of Richarson.
"We have a team of engineers and they're busy every day, both inspecting our bridges to make sure that we keep them safe and also making sure that we're looking at congestion and mobility issues, to make sure that we make the maximum use of the resources available to make travel on Michigan highways efficient," responded Richardson.
MDOT says the King Road bridge is scheduled to be replaced in 2015.
Richardson says MDOT has increased funding for bridge repair by $8 million over the last five years. But according to the latest state highway bridge report, there are 17 bridges in Saginaw County that are structurally deficient. According to the same report, 22 more bridges are functionally obsolete, which means they no longer meet the federally mandated design codes.
"We are committed to making sure we are repairing these bridges, but we've got quite a job ahead of us to make sure that that's done," said Richardson.
Richardson says the state's aging infrastructure is making it tough for crews to keep up, but she wants all motorists to know the bridges they encounter are safe.
"If a bridge is in such a condition that it poses a safety hazard to the public, we will close that bridge," said Richardson.
Copyright WNEM 2012 (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
Tuesday, June 12 2012, 11:04 AM EDT
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