A 13 Watchdog investigation found if the 100th Street bridge in south Kent County was rebuilt today, it would have to be built with a base at least 16 feet above US-131 to meet Federal Highway Safety guidelines. It is currently at its lowest point at a height of 14 feet 1 inch and is marked with a clearance of 13 feet 11 inches.
For the fourth time in 2018, a truck struck the 100th Street overpass on northbound US-131. This truck was carrying a forklift that crashed into the bridge early Monday morning, sending a piece of the forklift onto the highway and briefly closing down a lane.
Six weeks earlier, two semi-trucks collided with the bridge on Jan. 13, knocking off the northern and southern beams of the bridge. Another vehicle hauling a mobile home scraped the bridge on Jan 22.
We have learned the bridge has been hit at least six times since 2006.
"It's on the low side [for height] for sure, but it's definitely not the lowest in the state," MDOT spokesman John Richard said. "So, I'm not sure why it keeps getting hit, because it's clearly listed for all truckers."
MDOT says engineers found the bridge did not dip after the most recent incident, and repairs to the bridge should start, perhaps, as early as this spring. We asked leaders to confirm their measurements to make sure there's not a problem. They believe the bridge is not lower than it's marked.
The 100th street bridge over US-131 was built in 1957 and does not meet the current guidelines for bridges built over interstate highways in rural areas.
The Federal Highway Administration says in rural areas "the clear height of structures shall not be less than 16 feet over the entire roadway width, including the useable width of shoulder".
Truckers, on the other hand, cannot have a load that's higher than 13 feet 6 inches without a permit so any truck that hits a bridge marked higher than that is breaking the law.
"The legal standard is 13 feet 6 inches so that's the criteria which means trucking companies need to get under it," Sen. Tom Casperson (R-Escanaba) said.
Casperson, chair of the Michigan Senate Transportation Committee, said the insurance companies for the trucking companies should be paying for some of the damage. Though, everybody agrees the maximum payouts from an insurance claim won't totally cover the cost of re-building and reconstructing the bridge.
"When the 100th Street bridge is replaced, it will be brought up to current standards, and have a vertical clearance of 16 feet 3 inches," Richard said. "Replacing the bridge is in the five-year plan, but we're still in the design phase. And we still need to secure funding. As far as insurance money from the trucking companies, the [maximum] on that is $1 million."
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