Eggs and issues

HOUGHTON – Members of the public and some business representatives heard an update Thursday on the maintenance work on the Portage Lake Lift Bridge during the Keweenaw Peninsula Chamber of Commerce Eggs and Issues program at the Magnuson Hotel Franklin Square Inn in Houghton.

The presentation was given by Al Anderson, Michigan Department of Transportation project manger at the Ishpeming Transportation Service Center.

Anderson said work began on Dec. 14.

“As we went through the winter, the main part of the mechanical work was done,” he said.

That work included removing the original 84 lift cables and installing new cables. The cables will be reconnected to the lift deck during a bridge closure between 9 p.m. Saturday and 8:30 a.m. Sunday.

Anderson said a significant effort was required to lift the 4.4 million-pound lift deck during the cable removal process, which was accomplished with hydraulic jacks.

“It’s amazing how hydraulic pressure can lift that,” he said. “It’s about three hours to lift it up, and three hours to let it back down.”

When the lift cables were removed, Anderson said the deck was lifted 2 feet and locked in place. A ramp was installed to allow emergency vehicles to pass, but none needed the bridge during that time.

The eight balance chains for the lift mechanisms have been refurbished by Calumet Machine and are in the process of being reinstalled, Anderson said. Each chain weighs 20,000 pounds.

The next extensive job will be electrical work, Anderson said.

“The electrical will be done this summer into next winter,” he said.

Anderson said from April 15 to December 15 the following work will take place: concrete and steel rehabilitation; deck repair; painting; lighting under the bridge; street-level lighting; camera installations; warning gates and barrier gates installation; electrical work; and pilings installed in the water on the east side to protect the bridge from collisions.

There will be more lane closures through the spring and summer in both directions as the work continues, Anderson said. Traffic for both directions will occasionally be switched to one side or the other.

Anderson said the ramp from Memorial Drive to the northbound side of the bridge will stay closed through most of the work. It may occasionally be opened temporarily.

The contractor for the $8.39 million project is Waukesha, Wisconsin-based Zenith Tech, Anderson said. The bulk of the work will involve replacing the lift cables and refurbishing the balance chains.

Other work on the bridge includes painting, electrical and mechanical upgrades, placement of warning and barrier gates, and repair of the deck, parts of which have deteriorated.

Anderson said information about the maintenance project can be found online at, or on Facebook at Michigan DOT.

The Ishpeming Transportation Service Center can be reached at 485-4270, or 888-920-6368. There will be occasional updates on the National Park Service’s radio station at AM 1610.

Anderson said the maintenance work on the 56-year-old bridge is intended to keep it working another 50 years.

“We’ve had a pretty reliable bridge for many years,” he said. “We want to keep it that way.”