Preparations continue for massive lift bridge project

HOUGHTON – The massive maintenance project for the Portage Lake Lift bridge is scheduled to start in December, but exactly when will be determined after a project contractor is hired, according to Al Johnson, project manager for the Michigan Department of Transportation.

Anderson said bids for a lead project contractor won’t be taken for a few months.

“We have to wait until the funding for the next fiscal year,” he said. “The contract can’t be let until November.”

Once a contractor is hired, Anderson said a definite start date for the project will be set.

Anderson said the project will begin in December and is expected to be completed in April 2016. The project consists of replacing the 84 lift cables of the bridge, which opened to traffic in 1959.

Anderson said the $5.5 million project also includes rehabilitation of the balance chains, electrical and mechanical upgrades, security system upgrades, spot painting and installation of new warning and barrier gates.

Work on the lift cables will take place from January to March 2015. Disconnecting the cables will take 10 hours, Anderson said, but the plan is to do that when traffic is lightest.

Anderson said contractors hoping to bid for the project must first go through a pre-qualifying process, which will be done in September. The contractor bidders don’t have to be from Michigan.

“It can be anyone in the country,” he said.

Once a main contractor is chosen, Anderson said subcontractors will bid for jobs with that company. Local contractors will be able to bid for the various jobs.

A contractor to provide materials has already been chosen, Anderson said. Anlaan Corporation of Ferrysburg, Michigan will provide the new cables and other materials.

Anderson said many people have asked why the maintenance project is taking place in the winter, and he said it’s simply a logistical situation regarding boat traffic.

“The only time available is in the winter,” he said. “We have to be able to do it when the canal is iced over.”