Ferrysburg bridge millage fails; so what now?

Smith's Bayou Bridge is in need of millions of dollars worth of repairs. (Nov. 3, 2017)

FERRYSBURG, Mich. (WOOD) — The Smith’s Bayou Bridge has taken Spring Lake Road traffic across a narrow arm of Spring Lake since 1972.

With US-31 the main alternate route, it’s an important span not only for the convenience of local residents, but also for public safety.

“Our fire barn is over here (on 174th Avenue), to where they would have to jump on the highway, go to Van Wagoner (Street), come back this way,” Ferrysburg Mayor Dan Ruiter said, describing the time-consuming route emergency crews would have to make without the bridge.

But the bridge has seen better days.

On Tuesday, voters said no to a 3 mill request that would have generated about a half million a year for the next decade for what city officials estimate is a $12.5 million project to either fix or replace the bridge.

Voters also approved a measure that requires a vote of the people to sell any city-owned land. There had been talk of selling a city-owned nature preserve to developers and using the proceeds to fix the bridge.

So it’s back to square one for the city.

Engineers will do another evaluation of the bridge in April.

“You can let it ride for a little while,” Ruiter said engineers may tell officials. “You need to close it. You need to make it one lane. You need to reduce weight limits. There’s all these other options.”

The inspection should give city leaders a fresh look at the extent of the problems and provide better answers for voters who may be asked once again to finance the fix.

“I think when we can honestly say, here’s the deal, here’s what’s going to happen if we don’t, we’ve got to step up to the table, I think it will have a little better effect,” Ruiter said.

The mayor, whose term ends in January after he placed third in the August primary, said the earliest voters could see another ballot proposal for bridge funding is May.