Bridge work incoming: Lift Bridge to get needed work in early November

(Jon Jaehnig/For the Gazette) Top: During the repairs, the bridge will be fixed in the intermediate position to allow for smaller watercraft too cross under the bridge and highway traffic to experience minimal interruption.

HOUGHTON — Residents of Houghton County have likely noticed maintenance on the Portage Lake Lift Bridge. Maintenance of the bridge that connects Hancock and Houghton has resulted in lane closures and occasional traffic congestion in recent days.

Heavier work on the bridge is scheduled to continue into early November. From Nov. 3 to Nov. 10, the work may disturb water traffic more than highway traffic.

“During that time, we’re planning on replacing some communication cable connections and the bridge won’t be operational,” said Michigan Department of Transportation Operations Engineer Ken Filpus.

During the repairs, the bridge will be fixed in its intermediate position. This will allow highway traffic and small watercraft traffic to continue. The bridge will be unable to lift for taller watercraft, however.

“We put a sign up to alert maritime traffic ahead of time,” said Filpus. “We did get approval from the Coast Guard and they issued a notice to maritime traffic also.”

(Jon Jaehnig/For the Gazette) Recently, the Coast Guard and the Michigan Department of Transportation announced to water traffic that repairs scheduled for Nov. 3 to Nov. 10 will prevent the bridge from rising for tall watercraft.

While the bridge itself is maintained by MDOT, they work closely with national organizations like the Coast Guard because the canal is a federal waterway.

During the maintenance, there are not expected to be any lane closures on the bridge. While the bridge will need to be raised and lowered for testing, these tests are scheduled for after 7 p.m. when traffic on the bridge is lighter.

The maintenance project costs $57,000 and is not expected to be required again for fifteen years.

“It is electrical, so it may need to be replaced sooner. The bridge is very exposed to a lot of elements,” said Filpus. “…but typically, (the cables) are expected to last for fifteen years.”

Following the tests, the bridge will move art least once more this year. The bridge is fixed in its lower position during the winter months allowing highway traffic on the top deck and snowmobile traffic on the bottom deck while ice prohibits watercraft.