The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has reopened the South Branch of the Ontonagon River bridge near Ewen after significant work was completed to revitalize the former railroad bridge.
Work began this summer and was completed ahead of schedule.
The bridge reopened after final inspection on Sept. 20. This $803,000 project was funded through ORV and Recreational Trails Program funding. Repairs were performed by MJO Contracting Inc. of Hancock.
“MJO Contracting did an excellent job and their attention to detail will ensure recreational users are able to enjoy this structure for generations to come,” said Jeff Kakuk, DNR western Upper Peninsula trails specialist.
Work undertaken consisted of removal of the old bridge deck and wood approach abutments. The site was grubbed and graded to allow water to drain away from the bridge footings, two of which were rebuilt. The old bridge abutments were replaced with concrete and steel.
The new bridge deck is constructed of custom pressure-treated, glue-laminated beams, deck and railing.
“This is an important bridge repair project we first began developing several years ago,” said Ron Yesney, DNR Upper Peninsula trails coordinator.
The 443-foot-long steel plate girder bridge, which was originally constructed during Duluth, South Shore & Atlantic railroad development, previously underwent engineering review by Northwest Design Group of Traverse City.
“This bridge provides access for snowmobile, off-road vehicle and non-motorized traffic on the Bergland to Sidnaw Rail Grade,” Kakuk said. “It’s great having this important trail river crossing project completed.”
The Bergland to Sidnaw Rail Trail (Snowmobile Trail No. 8) uses the former DSS&A railroad grade and runs for 49 miles. The route parallels M-28, running east and west, in Ontonagon County.
Northwest Design Group conducted an initial engineer review of five bridges on the Bergland to Sidnaw Trail in 2008. While exact construction dates are not available, it is likely the bridges were constructed in the late 1800s or early 1900s.