Michigan DOT scrambles to tackle flood-damaged highways, bridges

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Updated Jun 1, 2020
Before and after images show the extent of Midland County flooding’s muddy aftermath. NASA Earth Observatory images by Joshua Stevens, using Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey.Before and after images show the extent of Midland County flooding’s muddy aftermath. NASA Earth Observatory images by Joshua Stevens, using Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey.

Michigan Department of Transportation crews have been working to rapidly close roads and bridges and prepare for inspections and repairs, following two major dam failures May 19 that flooded several counties in central Michigan.

The MDOT reports that more than 20 state highway and local agency bridges have been closed because of flooding that followed heavy rains. Bridges will require extensive inspections and many have also suffered damage that will need to be repaired before they can be reopened.

Damage to U.S. 10 bridges over Sanford Lake in Midland County. Credit: Michigan DOTDamage to U.S. 10 bridges over Sanford Lake in Midland County. Credit: Michigan DOT

“We can’t expect to see many of these bridges reopen in the next week,” said MDOT Bay Region Engineer Robert Ranck Jr. “However, our department is already establishing emergency contracts to begin inspections and repairs to structures as soon as water levels recede enough to allow that work. These efforts are underway, and we will continue to expedite this work safely and efficiently.”

The MDOT expects more closures as water levels continue to rise through Saginaw County and says it is moving additional temporary barricades from other MDOT facilities and local road commissions to close them when necessary.

On May 19, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer declared a state of emergency for Midland County, and more than 10,000 residents of Edenville and Sanford were ordered to evacuate. The Tittabawassee River reached a record high of 35 feet before it began receding. The Edenville dam on the river collapsed, and rushing water rose over the Sanford dam.

Flooding damages and closes U.S. 10 bridges. Credit: MDOTFlooding damages and closes U.S. 10 bridges. Credit: MDOT

Note: The photo captions have been corrected to reflect that the bridges are on U.S. 10.