MDOT calls in bridge experts to look at Vets Bridge

Veterans Memorial Bridge in Bay City is closed to traffic and it could be some time before it reopens.
Published: Dec. 7, 2022 at 4:43 PM EST
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BAY CITY, Mich. (WNEM) – Veterans Memorial Bridge in Bay City is closed to traffic and it could be some time before it reopens.

The Michigan Department of Transportation has called in experts from out of state to look at the problem, which is a piece of equipment that is out of alignment by just one inch. A drive shaft on the bridge is what is out of alignment, and that is part of the rack and pinion that moves the bridge up or down.

MDOT is still trying to determine what caused the issue, and how much it will take to fix.

The closure is just the latest traffic headache for drivers in Bay City, who still can’t use the nearby Liberty Bridge for at least a few more weeks.

The bridge has been stuck in the upright position since Tuesday afternoon, Dec. 6.

“We are not going to know when we can get Vets Memorial Bridge back open. We’ve got experts that are coming in to look at the structure, to make sure that we can actually put it in the downright position without causing further harm,” said Steve Katenhus, Bay City transportation service center manager for MDOT.

Katenhus took TV5 inside the bridge, and it turns out this whole problem boils down to about an inch.

“This drive shaft has actually moved outward enough that it stopped our sensors in the bridge house,” Katenhus said.

The drive shaft, which works in concert with other electrical, mechanical, and structural components to raise and lower the bridge, is out of alignment.

“What we don’t know, and the uncertainty is, what caused that drive shaft to be out of alignment? And there’s a bearing that actually keeps that in place. What is going on with the bearing? Did the bearing allow this to move? Did it fail? We don’t know,” Katenhus explained.

It’s answers to those questions that MDOT is working to find. In the meantime, drivers will have to find another way around town.

“I’m just going to ask for their patience. I also live in this area too. Seek alternative routes. We will not open this structure up until it is safe to open, that is a guarantee,” he said.

Katenhus said maritime traffic takes priority over vehicular traffic because of federal mandates. That is why MDOT doesn’t want to do anything that causes the bridge to be stuck in the down position.

MDOT is scheduled to do some work on Lafayette Bridge during the winter, but Katenhus said that won’t happen until the issues with Vets Bridge are resolved.

Bay City Bridge Partners announced the Liberty Bridge will open back up on Dec. 22.