Delta County Board unhappy with delays in US 2 bridge project

ESCANABA — The Delta County Board decided Wednesday to send a letter to the Michigan Department of Transportation and other parties involved with construction on the U.S. 2 and 41 bridge over the Escanaba River, focusing on the negative effects recent delays in the project have had on area citizens.

Contract issues that affected bridge work began June 1, when the Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association ended a contract it had with Operating Engineers 324. Members of the union have continued to work with contractors — including prime contractor Zenith Tech — on the bridge project. The union’s bylaws prevent it from sending additional members to work on the project before contract negotiations with Zenith Tech begin.

The board’s letter will be based on a rough draft of a proposed joint resolution, which was included in the board packet for Wednesday’s meeting. While discussing this with the board, County Administrator Philip Strom said he and the city managers of Gladstone and Escanaba had spoken about the possibility of issuing a joint resolution or letters to parties involved with the bridge project regarding the impact that project delays have had and could have in the future.

“Right now, if that construction is delayed into the winter, it creates a dangerous situation here in Delta County and it also creates a very inconvenient situation for the people that work in the community and also that are traveling through the community,” he said.

Strom noted the board did not have to make a decision on the matter Wednesday, and he did not have an official recommendation.

“This is merely an item for discussion,” he said. Strom also said the board could have elected not to get involved with this situation at all; while it affects county citizens, it is primarily a contractual issue.

During the meeting, Delta Conservation District Executive Director Rory Mattson said he has been in direct contact with MDOT representatives and other people involved with the bridge project. He said Payne and Dolan will do paving for the project in mid-September.

Mattson said that will be helpful for nearby Pioneer Trail Park, which has been affected by the bridge project.

“That’ll help us with all the approach problems we’ve had, but the biggest problem we’ve had in Pioneer Trail Park is getting out of the park — not into it, but it’s getting out, especially with the trailers,” he said. Mattson encouraged the county board to write a letter to MDOT and other parties involved with the project.

A closure of the U.S. 2 and 41 bridge over the Escanaba River has been scheduled for Monday. According to Dan McKernan, communications director for Operating Engineers 324, no agreement was in place between the union and Zenith Tech and no discussions had taken place between the two parties as of Wednesday night.

In other business, the board agreed to adopt a resolution supporting the creation of an additional lock at the Soo Locks in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. The board’s decision was made in response to the Marquette County Board of Commissioners’ recent resolution on this matter.

Chair David Rivard said the creation of this lock is a high priority for the region.

“It’s critical to us — there’s no question (about that),” he said.

Jordan Beck can be reached at jbeck@dailypress.net.

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