MLK Jr. Blvd. bridge shut down in Pontiac after inspection deems condition critical

Posted at 10:22 PM, Aug 16, 2022

PONTIAC, Mich. (WXYZ) — The Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard bridge in Pontiac is shut down indefinitely after it failed inspection in July.

A copy of the report shows it is listed in critical condition.

Pontiac Mayor Tim Greimel says the extensive damage was discovered in a second-phase inspection.

"Bridges are inspected every two years. If someone who is doing the inspection from the ground sees something that looks of concern to them, they borrow more sophisticated equipment from the Michigan Department of Transportation so they can get a closer view of the underside of the bridge," Greimel said.

The inspection was done on a section where the bridge hovers over railroad tracks. Pictures show major deterioration of metal joists that keep the bridge standing.

Inspection report of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard bridge by WXYZ-TV Detroit on Scribd

You can also see rusty holes and cracked concrete on the road and railings.

"They obviously saw the deterioration of the bridge and decided and recommended that it be shut down immediately," Greimel said. "And of course, that was an obvious decision."

When you bike everywhere, it's hard to avoid faulty infrastructure. Micheal Beauford says the MLK Jr. Boulevard bridge is one of Pontiac's biggest eyesores.

"I just rode past it and looked at it and it was disgusting," Beauford said. "It's an old bridge and it needs to be torn down."

The bridge, which was built in 1976, will come down eventually.

Greimel says they could try to stabilize it, but that wouldn't make sense in the long run. Both demolition and reconstruction will cost a whopping $9 million.

"There is an option to temporarily support the bridge, but that would cost an additional $1.5 million," Greimel said. "It also isn't clear if that's even a viable option."

The bridge is shut down to all car, bicyclist and pedestrian traffic. But not everyone is taking the posted warnings seriously.

"There was a sign, I just kind of disregarded it to be quite honest," said a man walking over the bridge.

Councilwoman Melanie Rutherford says the closure impacts her district. She understands it’s frustrating having to find another route, but the alternative is much worse.

"If that bridge collapses with someone on there, then lives are going to be lost and properties that are going to be damaged," said Rutherford, who represents District 1. "So we as a city are doing the best that we can to make sure we come up with a solution to get this bridge repaired."

Greimel says city officials will hopefully know by November what state or federal funds are available for the project.

"There is a bridge program at the state level that we are confident will provide about 95% of the needed funds for this reconstruction of the bridge, which will leave the city with a required 5% match," Greimel said.

He's hoping the total rebuild will be finished by end of next year. The latest would be 2024.

"I hope the residents of our city will continue to be patient," Greimel said.