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Lift Bridge repairs planned

HOUGHTON — The Portage Lake Lift Bridge will be having some work done, though it is expected to have minimal impact on motorists.

The Michigan Department of Transportation is planning work on the bridge this winter and next summer, Houghton City Manager Eric Waara said at Wednesday’s City Council meeting.

Waara said the bridge upgrades would not involve the level of service interruption seen in 2015, where the bridge was closed overnight to accommodate the replacement of lift cables.

Early work will involve painting and prep work in the machine rooms housing the motors that operate the bridge. In January, they will replace the motors, as well as doing some work in the towers. In the summer, crews will replace the finger joints on the bridge roadway.

There may be scattered closures of up to an hour as crews lift a part to be installed, Waara said. They anticipate four closures of 60 to 90 minutes in January.

“Beyond that, they aren’t expecting any full-lane closures,” he said. “It’s going to be mostly intermittent throughout the work, as most of the work is indoors or on the steel itself.”

MDOT has done a good job communicating with emergency services prior to the work to make sure they have services lined up, Waara said.

Waara said the repairs would have minimal impact on the snowmobile trail under the bridge. To accommodate lifting the bridge, the city may have to temporarily remove the snow placed on the lower level for snowmobiling.

“The bridge itself, the center span is so finely balanced, if there’s too much snow on it, they can’t move it,” he said. “We may have to go and remove some of the snow so they can lift the bridge, lower it back down, and then we’ll dump the snow back on it and pat it back down again.”

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