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Two Crash-Plagued Railroad Bridges In Downtown Jackson To Be Replaced

The North Mechanic Street railroad bridge, looking north, from the intersection of Glick and Mechanic.  JTV Photo.

Two deteriorating railroad bridges in downtown Jackson will be replaced with new spans as a result of federal funding announced this week.

The U.S. Department of Transportation announced a federal State of Good Repair Program grant award for more than $23 million to the Michigan Department of Transportation for bridge replacement and other rail improvements.

The federal grant will be used by MDOT to improve rail, crossties, and track surfaces between Battle Creek and Dearborn on the Michigan-owned segment of the Chicago-to-Detroit/Pontiac corridor. These improvements include replacing approximately 80,000 railroad ties east of Battle Creek and 15 track miles of rail east of Jackson. 

Two deteriorating railroad bridges in Jackson over Jackson and Mechanic streets also will be replaced with new spans. Both bridges are located north of Louis Glick Highway in downtown Jackson.  The current structures rely on temporary shoring and have sub-standard vertical clearances, resulting in frequent bridge strikes by motor vehicles. The new spans will help reduce bridge strikes and expand nonmotorized paths under the structures to improve pedestrian safety.

State of Michigan existing bridge standards require a minimum clearance of 13’ 6” and permits are required for vehicles over that height.  The Mechanic Street bridge has a clearance of just 10’ and the Jackson Street bridge clearance is 11’9”.   Both bridges have been struck by vehicles numerous times over the years.

The state requires a minimum clearance of 14’6” for any new bridge construction in urban areas.  By comparison, the federal standard for interstate overpasses is 16 feet. 

The overall project will help lead to improved rail safety and increased passenger train speeds for the Amtrak Midwest Wolverine Service, which carries nearly 500,000 annual passengers.

“This funding is critical to improve safety, enhance existing services, and further reduce travel times,” said Tim Hoeffner, director of the MDOT Office of Rail. “Improvements to this rail line will lead to increased passenger train speeds of up to 110 mph in certain places along this important corridor.”

“This grant will improve Amtrak Wolverine Service reliability and help us to continue to grow revenue and ridership on this important Amtrak Midwest corridor,” said Ray Lang, Amtrak senior director, State and Local Affairs. “Michigan is respected nationally as a leader in passenger rail and MDOT is one of our best Amtrak partners in both operations and infrastructure.”

MDOT has not announced a timeline for the projects.

The North Jackson Street railroad bridge, looking north. JTV Photo.
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