Bridge lifts to be restricted

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette Starting Sept. 29, the Portage Lake Lift Bridge will only go up in most cases at the top of the hour or at the half-hour mark, Houghton County Administrator Ben Larson said Tuesday.

HOUGHTON — Drivers in Houghton and Hancock will have less worry of unexpected backups at the Portage Lake Lift Bridge.

Lifts of the bridge will be restricted to the top and halfway point of the hour in most cases, starting Sept. 29, Houghton County Administrator Ben Larson said during Tuesday’s county board meeting. He received word of the change from the U.S. Coast Guard’s Ninth District office in Cleveland.

“We will not raise the bridge unless it is 4:30 or 5 or 3:30 or 3,” he said. “So if you have to go to a five o’clock baseball game, just get across at 4:40. That bridge will not be up.”

MDOT, which owns and operates the bridge, made the request to relieve traffic congestion at the bridge.

The new restrictions were tested on a trial basis from May to September 2022. Local officials had begun pushing for a change the previous year, when bridge lifts combined with lane closures to create traffic jams stretching back to Michigan Technological University.

Because the Portage Canal is a federal waterway, changes to bridge operations must be approved by Congress.

Between April 15 and December 14, the bridge shall open on signal from five minutes before to five minutes after the hour and half hour between the hours of 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.. The bridge will remain in the intermediate position after those hours, lifting between midnight and 4 a.m. if given two hours notice.

The regulations do not apply on federal holidays. Boats over 300 feet will also be passed through as soon as possible.

MDOT had requested restrictions barring lifts at three rush hour periods daily, the Coast Guard said in a notification of the proposed rule last year.

During the test period in 2022, the Coast Guard noted a steady traffic flow between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., increasing gradually until 4 p.m. before dropping.

The most requests came from recreational vehicles, which requested 55 openings during the test period. Another 43 came from the Ranger III, which travels to Isle Royale National Park from the Houghton side of the bridge.


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