IMAGE: Liberty Bridge in Bay City

The City of Bay City will once again consider the possibility of contracting with a private company to handle the burden of two bridges.

It has been estimated that the city would have to spend anywhere from 26 to 137 million dollars to repair or replace Liberty Bridge and Independence Bridge. The bascule bridges are the city's two northernmost crossings over the Saginaw River.

The potential costs were outlined in a report on the various options available to the city, which included repairing both bridges, tearing down one of the bridges, or replacing one of the bridges.

Commissioner Jesse Dockett said the city spent more than year looking into various options for covering the costs after citizens balked at a possible deal to privatize the bridges.

Those options, according to Dockett, included:

  • Charging the boats that required the bridges to open, which Dockett said would violate the river's status as a Federal Navigable Waterway. Dockett also said it would not raise enough money.
  • Raising a county millage, which Dockett said was unlikely due to low support from county residents outside of Bay City.
  • Raising a city millage or bond, which Dockett said would require a larger tax increase than legally allowed.
  • Receiving help from MDOT, which previously refused to take over Independence Bridge.
  • Handing over naming rights to a wealthy benefactor; Dockett said no such benefactor has come forward.
  • Removing a bridge and maintaining the remaining bridge, which Dockett said was still too expensive.
  • Asking the federal government for help; Dockett said the government would likely support privatization.

Dockett also discussed the options of creating a toll system, using tax dollars from medical marijuana, and cutting city government salaries. He said none of those, even combined with other options, would generate enough money.

Dockett said there had already been one lost opportunity for a company to relocate to Bay City because of its infrastructure. He hoped the city could convince MDOT to reconsider taking over the bridges now that a new administration is in place in Lansing.

Meanwhile, the City Commission will vote on a resolution that could pave the way back to privatization.

A proposal from Commissioner Ed Clements would direct the City Manager to seek offers from private companies to take over the operation and maintenance of both bridges.

The resolution also calls for the replacement of Independence Bridge.

The City Commission will consider the proposal during its regular meeting at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 18.

Copyright 2019 WNEM (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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