Michigan DOT opens temporary solution after 500-year flood took out bridge

MDOT reopened the roadway less than one year after the flood damage

The Michigan Department of Transportation opened the M-30 temporary bridge over the Tobacco River in Gladwin County after the previous structure was washed away by a flood that occurred last year.

The reopening, on March 11, came after a 10-month closure of the M-30 corridor due to bridge damage and infrastructure failures from a 500-year flood in May 2020.

The bridge is a 230-foot, $4.5 million, prefabricated steel structure designed to temporarily fill the open span left by the previous M-30 bridge. The temporary structure allowed MDOT to open the bridge less than a year following the flood damages, opposed to the typical design and approval process, which takes three to five years. The long-term structure of the river system is still undetermined. The temporary bridge will allow crews to work on a permanent design while the bridge remains open for traffic.

Following the flood, MDOT and local officials closed nearly 30 roads and bridges across several counties, including two locations along the M-30 corridor in Midland and Gladwin counties. Several local roads were also closed, dividing communities and forcing commuters and local residents to follow lengthy detours. 

“I used to be able to pop down the road to visit my parents, and for almost a year that simple trip has turned out to be really cumbersome,” said local resident Beth Kelley. “Every road that has reopened over the last several months has helped to make that commute shorter. For them living on the north side of the bridge, even simple grocery store runs have taken twice as long, so our family is thrilled to have the road reopening and we’re so thankful for all of the hard work that has happened out here and of the community for banding together in this challenging time.”

Infrastructure damages from the flood are expected to exceed $100 million, according to MDOT.

The bridge is intended to last for five to seven years and will be removed and stored once the permanent bridge is built.

“Gov. Whitmer asked MDOT to prioritize restoring flood-damaged roads and bridges, and she is thrilled by the way the department and contractors responded,” said State Transportation Director Paul C. Ajegba. “Their hard work helped restore mobility for commuters and the flow of commerce across these communities.”

MDOT has already completed repairs to the US-10 bridge at Sanford Lake, the M-30 bridge over the Tittabawassee River, the Curtis Road bridge over the Tittabawassee River, and Saginaw Street in the village of Sanford.

Crews will begin working on a permanent bridge design for M-30 over the Tobacco River in the near future, says MDOT. It will also start work to replace the M-65 structures at Big Creek and Jose Drain in Arenac County.