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MDOT weighs options to lessen bridge traffic

Shelden Avenue has borne the brunt of work being done on the Portage Lake Lift Bridge over the past two weeks. Traffic snarls can last for a half hour, longer in some cases. That construction won’t be over any time soon, and the City of Houghton has been exploring options to alleviate some of the congestion, along with the Michigan Department of Transportation.

Houghton Manager Eric Waara says there are limited measures that can be taken.

They’re looking at modifying some of the working hours on the bridge to get free flow a little bit better. They’re looking at changing some of the signage, We may look at changing some flow directions here or there, just to get things to work better.

Since mid-week, most work has been completed during the overnight hours. The main thrust of the construction right now is rebuilding the teeth that interlock as the bridge is lowered back into place or when it is shifted so a different level is used to support vehicle traffic.

Waara says the backups are not all bad.

We have traffic issues with this construction. It is a bit of a pleasant problem in some cases, because the alternative is no traffic in the community, and that is a different problem entirely.

Because the canal is a federal waterway, maritime traffic takes precedence. To change that would require an act of Congress, something that is being lobbied for by local officials. The United States Coast Guard, MDOT, and others are asking those on pleasure craft to consider lighter traffic times to travel underneath the bridge, as each crossing halts cars for at least 10 minutes, causing severe backups.

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