M-94 bridge open ahead of schedule

The Michigan Department of Transportation reopened a stretch of M-94 near Skandia today that had been closed since heavy rainfall in mid-October caused the east branch of the Chocolay River to wash out a portion of the roadway. MDOT replaced the culvert system that failed last fall with a 129-foot concrete single-span bridge. (Journal photo by Ryan Jarvi)

MARQUETTE — The stretch of M-94 near Skandia that was closed since last fall is reopening today, as construction of a new bridge over the river that washed out part of the roadway was completed ahead of schedule.

Heavy rainfall in mid-October caused flooding of the east branch of the Chocolay River, which led to the failure of a four-culvert system beneath M-94 in West Branch Township, and a gap in the roadway estimated at roughly 90 feet wide and 35 feet deep.

The Michigan Department of Transportation on March 6 began construction of the new bridge spanning the washout at a cost of $1.8 million. It was originally expected to be completed by July 14, according to an MDOT press release, but officials said an early spring and efficient work by contractors allowed the work to be done sooner than expected and still remain on budget.

“We approached this emergency repair project this spring with the goal of getting it done as quickly as possible,” Rob Tervo, manager of MDOT’s Ishpeming Transportation Service Center, said in the release. “We’re extremely pleased to be able to reopen this roadway, restoring an important local route and one of the access corridors to K.I. Sawyer and Sawyer International Airport.”

The failed culvert system was replaced by a 129-foot concrete single-span bridge, and work to reshape and stabilize the stream bed beneath the bridge also took place. MDOT officials said with appropriate maintenance, the lifespan of the structure is expected to be 75 years.

Since the mid-October flooding incident, M-94 between Marquette County Road 545 South and U.S. 41 has been closed, and MDOT last fall worked with the Marquette County Road Commission to improve driving conditions on detour routes, according to the release.

Officials said MDOT had originally considered starting a repair project in late 2016. But after investigating the cost and timeline to build a replacement structure that would meet all requirements, MDOT determined contractors and vendors would have faced significant weather challenges and expenses if the project had started last fall, according to the release.

“We realize the detour was in place for a long time and it was an inconvenience for area motorists,” Tervo said. “MDOT is very grateful for the patience shown by the motoring public while we worked to build this new bridge, as well as the cooperation received from the Marquette County Road Commission. In our view, this was the best possible solution to repair the flood damage.”

Ryan Jarvi can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 270. His email address is rjarvi@miningjournal.net.