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United Bridge Partners' (UBP) mile-long South Norfolk Jordan Bridge in Chesapeake, Virginia, serves 10,000 vehicles daily.

TOLL BRIDGE? Pay-For Crossing Span Could Potentially Cost Us More

June 18, 2017       4 Comments
By: Dave Rogers

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A toll bridge at Mackinac spanning the Upper and Lower Peninsulas made sense for Michigan when built in 1958.

There was no other way to get to the UP for hunters and tourists, other than slow, costly ferry rides or freezing treks across the frozen Straits of Mackinac. That is not the case here.

Therefore, the proposal to erect a toll bridge to replace the Independence Bridge spanning the Saginaw River, and take over Liberty Bridge, may not be the wisest decision.

The plan has been floated by United Bridge Partners (UBP). United Bridge Partners, L.P. operates as an infrastructure company that develops, owns and operates private toll bridges across the U.S. The company is based in Foster City, California. Its first project was completed in 2012, a mile long span in Chesapeake, Virginia.

There really is no overwhelming need to build a 120-foot high bridge to replace Independence, say most local people I talk to.

"Why would anybody propose a toll bridge in Bay City?" a close friend of mine asked incredulously.

In fact, if we analyze it carefully, such a proposal may end up being the worst thing we could do for the city's biggest problems -- our bridges.

In the first place, motorists -- except for trucks -- will probably opt to use, and cause over-use, of the other two bridges, Veterans and Lafayette.

As a result, repairs will no doubt escalate for those two spans, plus additional city road deterioration, and costs doubtless would increase way over the current estimates of bridge repair needs.

Who is to say UBP won't slap a toll on Liberty Bridge also? By turning over our bridges to a private firm we may subject ourselves to endless problems, and additional costs.

And, the 26,000 vehicles now crossing Independence might be so reduced because of the tolls the firm would find the bridge a loser. What happens if they pull out? What liability would the city then have?

Ship traffic is so light there is little need for a Tyrannosaurus Rex 120-foot high monstrosity over the river.

Plus, privatizing the bridges would cause inconvenience and lost time for some drivers seeking alternate routes. And what about those folks who couldn't afford the $10 to $20 a week tolls? Would they have to find other jobs elsewhere, or not work because of the extra cost?

And, we have the possibility of depressing traffic from the east to the USS Edson, destroyer museum ship, now just coming into its own as a destination tourist attraction so sorely needed by Bay City and Bay County. A $2 additional fee just to get near the Edson -- and another $2 on the return trip -- would likely deter Edson tourists wouldn't it?

Some city officials have stated support for the project because of the estimated cost of $6 million for repairs to Liberty and Independence bridges over the next five years, and about $675,000 for the state's reconstruction of Layafette Bridge in 2020.

For myself, a resident of Monitor Township, I would rather pay for a small countywide bond issue for the $6-7 million in bridge repairs now needed rather than have a lifetime sentence of toll payments to cross the river. That is a relatively small amount of money, certainly not enough to justify privatizing our bridge system.

And, what happened to the state legislators who were telling us they could get the state to pay for and take over our bridges? Makes you wonder, doesn't it, whether something is rotten in Denmark.

What we really need to expand development of the city and township areas is a new bridge from Cass Avenue to Hotchkiss. Why not let United Bridge Partners take a flier at restoring the access from the South End to Frankenlust Township? Drivers seeking to bypass the city and reach the I-75 expressway might find a Cass toll bridge to their liking. Let the private sector take the risk rather than spend taxpayer money.

People coming off I-75 and heading to the Thumb could save much time going across a bridge at Cass and reaching M-25 to the East without going through the city and burdening our roads even more.

And, UBP would thereby participate in an important economic development project for Bay City and Bay County -- without imperiling our traffic flows that now are successfully being met by Independence, Liberty, Veterans and Lafayette bridges.

Yes, in the interest of full disclosure, I have a more than usual interest in Independence Bridge; I was the manager of the $9 million bond issue campaign in 1971 that paid for replacing the ancient Belinda Bridge.

To attract out-city voters, the bond package included replacement of nine small bridges in the county along with Belinda.

We posted signs on the bridge approaches saying "New 4-Lane Bridge Planned Here; Vote Yes!"

Jim McGowan of TV-5 and myself went under the aging Belinda span and he shot film footage of bolts that had rusted and fallen out of the bridge, creating dangerous conditions. The television ads we placed were startling evidence of need that voters could see for themselves.

We handed out hundreds of bumper stickers to truck drivers that said "I'm A Bridgebuilder," and their vehicles were mobile campaign signs plus stating their personal feelings about the need for the new bridge.

So far, I see no similar public demand for the high rise span replacing Independence, except from the venture capital company making the proposal.

City leaders and residents: please think this idea through before binding us to an unwise and potentially costly commitment. ###

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"The BUZZ" - Read Feedback From Readers!

mgaken9517 Says:       On June 18, 2017 at 08:45 PM
Nice article and very true. I agree !
tennis1960 Says:       On June 19, 2017 at 12:04 AM
I stopped after the 2nd paragraph.....total BS and good luck !
Cindy Says:       On June 23, 2017 at 08:51 PM
I would be happy to have a toll bridge. It could free up more funds for city street repairs. More fairly share the expense. More people use that bridge daily than city residents, including me. I'd be happy to purchase an annual pass and not have to be stopped by a frighted doing its rightful commerce.
bdbpem Says:       On June 23, 2017 at 09:46 PM
DAVE,
YOU ARE 100% CORRECT. don't give up. I'm with you.

Bernie
Agree? or Disagree?


Dave Rogers

Dave Rogers is a former editorial writer for the Bay City Times and a widely read,
respected journalist/writer in and around Bay City.
(Contact Dave Via Email at carraroe@aol.com)

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