As Secretary of Transportation, there have been few things more satisfying to me than seeing this Department put men and women to work improving safety in communities across America. And yesterday's dedication of two new bridges on East Stadium Boulevard in Ann Arbor, Michigan, is a perfect example.
Since 2009, the Bridges Replacement Project has been the city of Ann Arbor's highest transportation priority. And, through the support of DOT's competitive TIGER program, we're happy to help community leaders check this critical project off their list.
The Boulevard is one of the most traveled roadways in Washtenaw County, with more than 25,000 vehicles --including transit buses and commercial trucks-- using the six-mile corridor each day. For safety reasons, in the last several years, the City has been forced to reduce the allowable load limits on the bridge over S. State Street several times, to prohibit heavy trucks from using both bridges, and to restrict the traffic lanes over each bridge from four to two.
The two bridges, just 350 feet apart, were built in 1928, and both were functionally obsolete--they did not comply with today's design standards, and both bridges lacked the necessary clearances for rail and road traffic below. In addition, the bridge over South State Street had been partially demolished because several beams were no longer safe, and the bridge over the Ann Arbor railroad tracks was structurally deficient.
Thanks in part to a 2010 TIGER grant and the more than 200 men and women who went to work on this project, what I saw yesterday in Ann Arbor was completely different.
The replacement bridge looks to be safer and includes bicycle and pedestrian amenities.
Photo courtesy Melanie Maxwell, AnnArbor.com
Today, the city's key east-west artery is once again intact, connecting the very busy campus of the University of Michigan with Ann Arbor's east side and allowing commuters improved access to I-94 and downtown Ann Arbor.
As Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez said, “Upgrading our infrastructure allows us to both put people to work and strengthen the economy. This project makes travel safer for Ann Arbor residents while offering greater transportation choices.”
It also demonstrates the value of President Obama's plan to "Fix It First" by targeting the most urgent upgrades for roads and bridges.
The city of Ann Arbor has been focused on doing just that, and the federal funds used on this project are just another example of our ongoing commitment to supporting much-needed road and bridge safety improvements while connecting communities and creating jobs at the same time.