Robert Ramey drove his ‘82 Pontiac station wagon across the bridge on Fort Street and Oakwood for the first time since July 2013. “My daughter saw on Facebook that it was open so we went that way today.”
For the past two and a half years this has not been possible.
MDOT announced in the summer of 2013 that the bridge would be closing and would reopen sometime in early 2015. Multiple delays led to the bridge remaining closed throughout 2015. It opened to the public yesterday, on New Years Eve.
Residents and business owners had concerns about the bridge being behind schedule. Peter Hanni of Gonella’s Subs said, “Business has suffered since the bridge was closed. People don’t know how to get to us.” Online many have complained that travelling to neighboring Downriver communities was made difficult by the closure.
Billy Justice of Downriver Blacktop crossed over the bridge today and said, “It really choked everything up with the bridge being closed.” His co-worker Dave Sawicki added “Sometimes people cannot even get out of the neighborhood.”
They explained that people’s concerns about the Fort Street closure were further aggravated by the Jefferson Avenue bridge in Delray being out of commission for the past couple years, regular backups and accidents on the I-75 Rouge River crossing, and periodic closures of the Dix Avenue bascule bridge over the Rouge River. When all were impassable traffic had to travel to Michigan Avenue as a detour.
Other local residents had a different perspective about what it meant for the bridge to be closed.
“I was the first to cross when they opened it up yesterday,” said Sid, a local resident who lives in the neighborhood around Oakwood and Fort. “It was nice while it was closed though… it brought nature back. There were deer right over there.” He hadn’t seen such wildlife in the past. “It’s neat living on a quiet peninsula without the traffic,” says Sid.
Passing traffic signaled approval by honking and clapping, giving thumbs up and pointing to the bridge, and stopping to say they were excited it was finally open though they had found no formal announcements or media coverage about its opening. Several bikes even passed by with some being surprised that the bridge was open.
“It’s really nice what they’ve done with it,” Robert said. “It was miserable when it was closed.”