Impressive feats of man and machine came together Wednesday, Dec. 9 to set the new bridge over the North Branch of the Tobacco River on Cedar Road in eastern Clare County.
The bridge will replace two 6x40-foot culverts washed away in the floods last spring. It was one of the few sites in Clare County affected by the floods that devastated neighboring counties. Lacking widespread damage, the county didn’t qualify for any federal or state funds to help with the $100,000 cost. Newer DEQ regulations would not allow the use of culverts to replace the old washed-out culverts.
Dave Bondie, road superintendent, was at the site in the spring when the culverts washed out. Having gotten a call about the flooding, he went to inspect.
“So much water picked up the culvert and wiped it out,” he said.
Bondie said he hopes the new bridge will open in a few weeks. However, he and his crew are eyeing the storm that may come in because it could cause a delay if road commission employees are out doing storm cleanup. Residents, while impatient, have been supportive about the project.
“Things don’t happen overnight; a lot of teamwork and planning went into today,” Bondie said.
The big excitement about the bridge repair was the crane coming to put the structure in place. The bridge arrived on pallets and road commission workers put it together onsite. Bondie estimated more than 5,000 nuts and bolts went into its assembly.
The site in the river was repaired and prepared, as well as installation of new footings. For most road commission employees, it’s the largest project the road commission has undertaken. With the exception of the crane and Consumers Energy moving powerlines, the work was entirely completed by county employees.
Cedar Road curves before and after the site – not ideal for semis and large equipment access.
A slight complication occurred when the crane operator determined he couldn’t operate from the prepared pad. He needed a bit more space. For anyone that has worked in the field it is the engineering versus real-life operating that occurs when the best laid plans don’t quite work out. The crane set up and moved the bridge structure five feet to provide more space. The crane then had to break down, move and set back up for the finale.
The months of planning paid off in the five minutes it took the crane to pick up the bridge and gently sent it into place as county workers guided it and many others looked on. A collective sigh of relief seemed to go up when the bridge was in place. It’s clear the work isn’t done just yet. While many of the road commission workers left after the excitement and a short tailgate hot dog grilled lunch together, many others grabbed shovels to start completing the job.