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Grosse Ile Parkway Bridge may not last as long as officials previously claimed

'We are doing everything right now as fast as we can to put long term corrective measures in place.'
Posted at 6:35 PM, Nov 21, 2022

GROSSE ILE, Mich. (WXYZ) — For years, the 7 Investigators have been exposing problems with Wayne County’s handling of the deteriorating Gross Ile Parkway bridge.

Now for the first time we’re hearing from top officials in the county about the future of the bridge, and there’s new information that shows the bridge may not last as long as county officials previously claimed.

“Why did you ever let it get this far? Why,” asked longtime Grosse Ile resident Holly Sworst about the condition of Wayne County’s Grosse Ile Parkway Bridge. “You've essentially nearly landlocked an entire island of people: teachers, nurses, seniors.”

Sworst and thousands of her Grosse Ile neighbors have endured years of closures of the 90-year-old Parkway Bridge. When Wayne County shuts that bridge down for repairs, residents are forced to drive miles out of their way to use the only other way off the island: a toll bridge.

“We pay just like everyone else your regular taxes. But to have to incur that additional expense only to be able to leave your home is really a travesty,” said Sworst. “It was definitely in excess of $500 a month.”

An 18-month recent emergency closure caused a commuting nightmare for Sworst and her children; trying to get to their school and to her nursing job on time was nearly impossible.

“You may sit and wait for an hour [at the toll bridge] to get back home,” said Sworst.

The 7 Investigators were the first to show you how Wayne County failed to conduct required underwater inspections of the Parkway bridge for 10 years: between 2007 and 2017.

The County has now resumed regular inspections, but they’ve had no shortage of controversy in their bridge department.

PHOTOS: GROSSE ILE PARKWAY BRIDGE INSPECTION

First, the 7 Investigators showed you how one former county bridge inspector was fired for falsifying records and neglect of duty. He admitted to the 7 Investigators that he’d been told to copy and paste information from previous bridge inspection reports into new reports.

More recently, the feds charged a former supervisor of the bridge department and an ex-foreman as part of an embezzlement scheme. After that was discovered, the former head of the Department of Public Services left the county.

After our past requests for interviews about the Grosse Ile bridge were denied, the new Public Services Director Andrew Kandrevas agreed to answer questions about the future of the bridge.

“There are a lot of internal procedures that are constantly being improved upon,” said Kandrevas when asked about the recent problems in the bridge department. “We do have a great department of many, many hundreds of hardworking, very loyal and caring individuals.”

VIDEOS: Underwater inspections of Grosse Ile Parkway Bridge show deterioration in some piers

Video of underwater inspection of Grosse Ile Parkway Bridge Pier 6W

“There's no other goal besides keeping that bridge open as long as we can to then have another crossing there at some point in the future, for sure,” Kandrevas told 7 Investigator Heather Catallo.

Last month, the county wrapped up a detailed study, called a “scoping,” that they say will create a cost estimate for future repair and replacement plans. It’s one of many scoping projects and studies done in recent years.

“When are you going to stop studying it and start fixing it,” asked Catallo.

“Well, you know, unfortunately, the last ‘fixing it’ happened at a time when we weren't expecting to have to fix it, which was the contract for the underwater piers that needed immediate work while another project was being undertaken,” said Kandrevas.

That’s when an underwater inspection revealed the bridge’s even numbered piers needed emergency repairs. Also in the last year, the odd-numbered piers were downgraded from fair-to-poor condition to poor condition. The county has now hired an engineering firm to design those repairs.

“Are you looking at another bridge shutdown,” asked Catallo.

“To have it shut down for weeks, months and years, I mean, that's not acceptable. That's not what we want to go for,” said Kandrevas. “I have been told that the pier work that needs to be done on the existing piers will be done from the water side. It will not demand any kind of extended shutdowns.”

During the 2021 bridge shut down, Wayne County officials said the project would add decades of use to the span.

Video of underwater inspection of Grosse Ile Parkway Bridge 3W

“Both repair projects, pier and superstructure are expected to extend the service life of the bridge by 20-30 years,” said a staffer from Wayne County Executive Warren Evans administration during a public meeting held on zoom.

But an independent evaluation done by Grosse Ile Township’s engineers found “the recent bridge repairs may not be adequate for 30 years.”

More than 225 taxpayers recently signed a petition demanding the bridge be fully repaired. Here are some of the comments from that petition:

“Please fix our bridge.”

“It's so dangerous.”

“Wayne County Bridge is our lifeline.”

“It needs fixing.”

“Wayne County forgot about us.”

“How are the residents supposed to trust you,” asked Catallo.

“I absolutely understand the concern of the residents,” said Kandrevas. “All I can say is this bridge is absolutely safe to travel on. You will not be able to travel on an unsafe bridge. We are doing everything right now as fast as we can to put long term corrective measures in place.”

On Thursday at 6:30 p.m., the Township will be holding a meeting with their engineers so residents can get their questions about the bridge answered.

As for the county, we did press them on why they haven’t held a question-and-answer session with residents. They told me they will do that once they’ve solidified their contract for engineering and inspection services next year.