Detours implemented as construction begins on historic Okemos Road bridges

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Those who take Okemos Road southbound on their commute to work or school will have to use a new route starting February 14, courtesy of a full-scale replacement and expansion of the Okemos Road bridges.

Southbound traffic will detour until November, while the northbound lane of will be unchanged throughout the new construction project, according to a notice from the Ingham County Road Department

“The new bridge will be five lanes wide, with the center lane providing left turn access to Wonch Park at the northwest corner of the bridge and to Ferguson Park at the southeast corner of the bridge,” said Kelly Jones, managing director of the Ingham County Road Department.

Other additions included in the $8.75 million project are storm sewage construction, pavement replacement from Clinton Street to Mt. Hope Road and traffic signal upgrades between Jolly Road and Grand River Avenue. 

A need for something new

The motivation behind this project came from the deteriorating nature of the two bridges, as they are “functionally obsolete per current bridge design standards,” according to an Ingham County meeting memo.

Despite efforts to maintain the 98 and 64-year-old bridges, county officials decided upon a replacement project within the past two years. For some, the construction process is frustrating but necessary.

“At first I was annoyed that they were shutting it down because so many people use that road, especially living in Okemos. But I think construction is much needed,” said Mady Grant, a lifelong Okemos resident.

“It’s just super narrow. It’s always been full of potholes, and it’s not the greatest spot to drive,” Grant said. 

In a similar vein, Michigan State University student Joey Kaminski said the bridges are a bit outdated.

“While they’re still functional, they’re not in the best condition. They could definitely use a modern replacement,” Kaminski said. 

Some of the many signs that now break up Okemos Road. Sidewalks are also closed as updated pedestrian areas will be added around and underneath the bridges.

Breaking down the project

The first stage of the project is set to conclude in July, and it will detour southbound traffic around the project via Central Park Drive, Dobie and Jolly Roads. During this time, the southbound Okemos Road bridge and roadway will be removed and the west half of the new bridge will be constructed, according to the Meridian Township website.

Following this, all northbound traffic will be moved to the newly constructed area of the bridge and roadway. Southbound traffic will remain closed while the east half of the new bridge is constructed.

A 10 ft. sidewalk will also be installed on the east side of the new bridge, and further access to Ferguson Park will be created through a series of new 8 ft. sidewalks on the same side. 

Current pedestrian areas along the west side of the bridges, including the green truss bridge, will be maintained throughout the construction. 

A community-wide effort

The Ingham County Road Department is doing its best to replicate the historic sentiment that the bridges have held over their stay in downtown Okemos, most notably through the design of the new one.

“We held several public meetings throughout the design stage and obtained valuable input from the community, parks, historical groups, township officials and many others.  The final bridge design is a result of stakeholder input obtained over the past couple years,” said Jones.

The primary design feature of the new bridge is its concrete arched railings, which pays homage to the existing camelback bridge. Ornamental fencing, textured concrete and rain gardens are among other design features of the project. 

Paying for the project will also be a community-wide effort. 

Federal, state, county and township funds will all be used toward the project, according to Jones. 

Nashville Construction is the primary contractor.

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