Photo Credit: Historic American Engineering Record
Photo Credit: Historic American Engineering Record. Adapted By HistoricBridges.org
|Military Street Bridge||Bascule (Draw)||Military Street (I-94 BL)||St. Clair County, MI||Port Huron||Black River|
The historic Military Street Bridge was the oldest bascule bridge in Michigan and it was also noted for its gorgeous ornate railings. These railings are what HistoricBridges.org describes as "arched lattice railing". These railings follow a general pattern of arched lattice on the top of each panel, with a row of traditional lattice in a smaller lower section of the panel. The exact design varies from bridge to bridge and the railings were not a product of a particular bridge company, and they appear on a vast variety of bridges from the late 19th century into the early part of the 20th Century. The historic Military Street Bridge also featured wooden walkways on each side, a feature once seen on all three of the Port Huron bascule bridges, but now present on none of Port Huron's bridges.
In 1990, a replacement project demolished this historic bridge. A disgrace to the Section 106 process, mitigation for the adverse affect of demolishing this bridge did not include the storage and/or preservation of even a single panel of the elegant railings. Unfortunately, the historic Military Street Bridge was demolished before HistoricBridges.org existed, and as such, HAER is the main source for photos of this bridge.
The Military bridge is the latest in a long history of spans at this location. One of these earliest spans was a wooden swing bridge. The next span was a beautiful pin-connected metal through truss swing bridge which appears to have been built by the Smith Bridge Company of Toledo, Ohio. The through span gave Port Huron a beautiful gateway into the city. The next span was the two leaf bascule bridge with the ornate railings. It also had attractive overhead arches to hold trolleys, which were removed in the 1950s. This bridge was the one the current span replaced.
When the current span was built, MDOT was responsible for the monetary responsibilities, since the bridge was located on an Interstate Business Loop. All the latest in technology was used to build this highly computerized and hydraulics powered bridge. All of this fancy stuff was supposed to make the bridge better than the old bridge. However, the new bridge has caused problems ever since the bridge was put into service. Sometimes when it got hot in the summer, they would have fireman come and hose the bridge down to keep it cool enough to operate! Today, while only a mere 20 years old, the bridge's poor construction quality already shows up in bridge inspection findings. In the National Bridge Inventory, the current bridge's superstructure is already down to "Fair" which is 5/10. This is a very rapid decline in superstructure condition. The bridge was also not designed to provide for the traffic needs of the area, and the bridge has already been classified as functionally obsolete. The bridge's sufficiency is only 54.6%, again extremely low for a bridge this young. Requests can often be made for total replacement funds when a bridge's sufficiency drops below 50%.
HistoricBridges.org did arrange a tour of the current Military Street Bridge, which, like any movable bridge is a lot more than just a span over a river and has a lot of mechanical equipment that is not out in the open for anyone to see. These photos are presented simply for comparison to the operation of historic bascule bridges such as the Seventh Street Bridge. The equipment and controls that operate a modern bascule are vastly different from historic bascule bridges.