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Cass Road bridge still alive

Tom Carr

There may not be a “Bridge Out Ahead” sign for Traverse City drivers after all. County commissioners have backed off from a proposal to pull funding for a replacement to a Cass Road bridge.

The run-down, one-lane crossing is to be taken out when a connected dam is demolished next year. Some commissioners feel it is not worth the expense to replace, believing what is needed is a larger bridge just to the north.

The commission did vow to push ahead on that longer, wider and more expensive bridge. That’s known as the Hartman-Hammond bridge, referring to the two roads it would link on either side of the Boardman River.

Some citizens objected to being told they had to choose between the two bridges. The county and several other agencies have spent several years and hundreds of thousands of dollars on the replacement project already.

“I believe we’ve made the commitment to reconstruct the Cass Road bridge and I believe we need to move forward with that immediately, as soon as we can get it done,” said commissioner Sonny Wheelock.

Others said replacing the Cass Road bridge would be a waste of money because it serves a relatively small number of people. More than 5,000 are said to cross it every day.

“I still think those funds could be used in better ways to serve more of our citizens,” said commissioner Alisa Kroupa.

But the Hartman-Hammond idea has been floated before. It was held up for years as environmental groups opposed it for what it might do to the river valley.

Members of the public also pointed out that the Cass Road project is likely to be finished much quicker than the other.

Many said they’d like to see both bridges, eventually. A two-lane Cass Road bridge would be a small improvement over the one lane bridge that allows traffic to alternate crossing. A larger, multi-lane bridge could ease a lot more congestion on South Airport Road and other main routes through Traverse City.

County commissioners are going to review costs and the progress of plans already underway before deciding the fate of the Cass Road project.