Bay City holds public meeting regarding drawbridges

By Michael Piwowarski, news editor.

Bay City Hall Bridges Meeting

BAY CITY − While the situation with two of Bay City’s drawbridges − including the possibility of implementing tolls − remains in the air, a traffic study has been conducted in order to evaluate possible options.

Independence and Liberty Bridges have been recently challenged with deteriorating conditions and a dire need for repairs. As a result, the city has been mulling over different options over the past year, including a county wide millage and the selling of both bridges to a private firm.

The latter option would mean the city would be relieved of liability for the bridges, but would also result in a toll being charged to cross both bridges, in order to fund repairs, as well as general upkeep and maintenance.

Orchard, Hiltz & McCliment, Inc. (OHM) was contracted by the city to explore different alternatives regarding the future of Independence and Liberty Bridges.

The result is the Bay City Bridge, Traffic & Operations Study. The general study area extends north to south from Wilder Road to 22nd Street, and west to east from M-13 to N. Trumbull St.

As cited in the study, Independence and Liberty Bridges currently get an average of 23,780 and 16,849 vehicles in daily traffic, respectively.

A public meeting hosted by OHM was held at the Bay City town hall Thursday, Aug. 30 at 6 p.m. in order to receive community input. Project manager Matt Wendling gave a presentation regarding the progress they’ve made in their study.

“We don’t have answers yet,” Wendling stated. “We have just now gotten into the traffic analysis portion of our study.”

As stated on OHM’s interactive web page on the study, there are four steps in the project process. Step one is to collect relevant data and analyze traffic and safety within their area of study. Step two is to conduct a traffic and safety analysis in order to assess problematic areas; this meeting was a part of that step.

Step three is about investigating alternatives after data has been collected. The fourth, and final step, is for OHM advisors to present their recommendations to the City Commission and create a final study report based on their findings.

Bay City citizens who attended the meeting raised a variety of concerns, from the lack of taxes being paid in order to fund maintenance, to the possibility that a majority of citizens would avoid use of the bridges if they start to charge a toll for crossing.

Wendling continued to make it clear that the feedback OHM are receiving is very important to them and that they intend to use it as a factor in their analysis.

The goal of this meeting, says Wendling, was to “get feedback on what concerns our citizens here within the city limits, on issues they face day to day, whether they’re commuters or residents within the city.”

Following the presentation and Q&A session, a one-on-one discussion was held so that the citizens could ask questions to project staff and discuss the issue further.

In addition to the meeting, OHM has collected feedback by conducting an online survey, which has so far collected more than 150 responses, Wendling said.

For those who did not attend the meeting but still wish to provide some input, the survey is still open until September and can be found here. In addition, more information can be found at OHM’s web page on the the Bay City Bridge, Traffic & Operations Study.

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