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Crumbling West Road bridge causing mounting frustration Downriver: 'I'm scared every time I go over it'

Posted at 3:37 PM, Sep 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-01 19:01:02-04

(WXYZ) — The West Road Viaduct in Trenton has been a sore spot for neighbors for years.

“I’m scared every time I go over it,” said Lynn Weclowski, who lives near the bridge.

Weclowski and her neighbors want to know when this bridge will be fixed.

The 83-year-old viaduct is one of the few east-west routes Downriver that goes over local train tracks, which means cars don’t get stopped when a train is racing by.

GALLERY: Photos from the West Road Viaduct safety inspection report

“We have water all on one side, as far as you can go north and south. And then we’ve got major railroad," said Weclowski. “So we are trapped in this little peninsula.”

That means the bridge is a lifeline for residents to get to nearby hospitals.

“We’ve got concrete falling down on cars that go under it,” said Weclowski. “I know a friend that actually got rebar poked into her tire up on the viaduct, on the top.”

Bridge conditions are rated on a scale of 1 to 9, with 9 being the best. Overall, the West Road bridge is a 3, which is considered to be in serious condition.

Related: Crumbling bridge sparks concern in Trenton

Crumbling bridge sparks concern in Trenton

The viaduct has steel supports that have been added under some of the piers. According to the Michigan Department of Transportation 2022 inspection report, while the surface of the bridge is rated in fair condition at a 6, the piers are only a 3 and the expansion joints are rated at a 2 (considered to be in critical condition).

In 2021, Wayne County officials told the 7 Investigators that reconstruction on the piers would start in 2022. But so far – nothing.

“Oh it makes me mad! I don’t know if it’s just Wayne County just doesn’t care about us down here in little Downriver or what,” said Weclowski.

“It became apparent that this bridge really does need to be replaced versus rehabilitated,” said Scott Cabauatan, Wayne County’s Deputy Director of the Department of Public Services.

He says in March, the county decided to pivot and plan for a full replacement, rather than just fixing parts of the bridge.

“We want to build the bridge, a long-term structure that's going to serve the public of Trenton and Wayne County and those that visit the area. And we want to make sure it's done to the best standards and that it's, number one, safe,” Cabauatan told 7 Investigator Heather Catallo.

Cabauatan says right now, the bridge is safe to drive on. If it wasn’t, the county would close it down like they did in 2020 to the Grosse Ile Parkway bridge.

In the meantime, the county plans to start work soon on the West Road expansion joints that are currently rated as only a 2.

But the joints and the piers aren’t the only trouble spots on this bridge.

Weclowski says the clogged drains on the bridge have been causing flooding in the nearby homes and yards for years.

“I think they’re negligent,” said Weclowski about the county. “If they would have cleaned the drains as they were supposed to, we wouldn’t have the water deteriorating this bridge and having to pay our tax dollars fixing this bridge.”

On every annual inspection since at least 2019, the county’s hired engineer has noted the same thing: “Drains are plugged with dirt and debris and not functioning as intended.” The inspector also pointed out that the ponding water causes spalling – or flaking – of the concrete.

“Why hasn't the county cleared those drains,” asked Catallo.

“From my understanding, we have sent crews up there to clean the drains. They just continuously get plugged,” said Cabauatan.

West Road Viaduct waterflow | Video 1

Because Cabauatan just started this job at the beginning of August, the 7 Investigators asked the county to find out the dates those drains were cleaned in the past. A county spokeswoman told us that they couldn’t track that kind of specific maintenance, just the annual maintenance on the bridge. She said they could only confirm some of the drains were cleared back in 2019 when some of the expansion joints were repaired.

Neighbors say that’s not good enough.

“I want them all cleaned out and re-done,” said Weclowski.

West Road Viaduct waterflow | Video 2

Cabauatan said the county does not have a target date yet for the new bridge, but they are hoping to start construction in the next year or two. It’s expected to cost at least $34 million. He says in the meantime, they will keep up the maintenance on the current bridge.