By DAVID GREEN
When Morenci city council members learned in May that the Main Street bridge over Silver Creek will have to be closed for replacement—perhaps in 2011—conversation turned to the difficulties of road closure during the construction period.
There would be no easy detour around the bridge at the main entrance to town from the east—particularly not for truck traffic serving local industries.
But due to the Palm Plastics expansion project announced earlier this month, the problem is likely to disappear.
Financial assistance from the State of Michigan will bring money to Morenci, as well as to Palm Plastics.
A portion of a $2.9 million CDBG grant will be used to construct a north/south road into Morenci’s industrial park. The road will begin at Main Street just east of Silver Creek by United Bank and Trust, and end at the existing industrial park road, the east/west Skyline Industrial Drive.
The new road, to be called Hammontree Industrial Drive, will intersect Main Street east of the bridge and provide a detour during construction. The road project hinges on construction of Palm’s proposed second building.
State economic development officials were interested in the project for several reasons, said David Munson of Munson Development Company.
Inspection of the bridge earlier this year resulted not only in the order for replacement, but also called for a weight reduction from 61 tons to 42 tons.
That change was of concern to Palm Plastics in regard to inbound materials shipment. When the bridge is closed, traffic leading to Palm and to Roth Fabricating would be adversely affected to an even greater degree.
A detour through town would lead truck traffic through residential and school areas—a situation that’s avoided when possible.
Council members voted in May to seek federal funds that would cover 95 percent of the bridge replacement cost. That would leave the city with a share of about $15,000 plus engineering costs. Replacement would be scheduled in 2011.
The bridge inspector didn’t order immediate action beyond the load reduction, but regular inspections will check for additional deterioration. The inspector found scaling on the metal beams and underwash around the abutments.
The bridge problem was a factor in the state’s determination of financial aid to Palm Plastics, Munson said, but the benefit goes beyond the industrial park.
“I think it will help the city as a whole,” he said.