By Robert Tomlinson
CENTREVILLE — The longest bridge crossing in St. Joseph County will be getting some much-needed and highly sought-after repairs in the next few years thanks to new funding from the state.
During the St. Joseph County Road Commission’s meeting Wednesday, Nov. 1, Engineer Garrett Myland told board members that the agency recently received $3.85 million from the State of Michigan’s Local Bridge Advisory Board and another $1.9 million from the state’s Southwest Region Bridge Council toward a future project to make repairs to the Farrand Road bridge in Colon Township, for a total of $5.75 million.
With an additional $1.25 million expected to come from the St. Joseph County Road Commission’s coffers, Myland said the future bridge project, expected to be done in 2026 and cost approximately $7 million, now has the majority of the funds it needs to finally be done.
“We now have the majority of funds secured for that project in 2026,” Myland said.
The funding looks to be a significant win for the road commission, who Myland said have been trying to secure funding for repairs to the 312-foot bridge since 2017. Back in March, Myland had announced the agency was submitting the bridge, along with three others, for consideration to the state’s Local Bridge program, which has the advisory board and the bridge council under it. That submission, Myland said, was the eighth time in the last six years the agency had applied for funding for the bridge, having applied for both state and federal funds.
A number of issues currently plague the Farrand Road bridge, which has had weight restrictions placed on it since 2015 and is currently rated a “4” on the state’s 0-9 scale, also known as a “poor” rating. Chief among those issues, as previously reported by the Commercial-News, is its timber structure, which is nearing 60 years old and has piling – the vertical supports in the middle of the river – rotting out under the bridge.
“It is getting in that state where it’s time for this timber bridge [to be worked on],” Road Commission Manager John Lindsey said in an interview after the meeting. “Timber bridges just don’t last forever, and neither does concrete, but these timbers are bad and need to be replaced.”
Myland said that along with the expected $1.25 million the road commission will pay for the construction costs in 2026, the agency would also be responsible for all of the engineering costs for the project.
During discussion at Wednesday’s meeting, Myland and Lindsey discussed a bit about the process in applying for the funds. Myland said getting the agency’s ask down below $4 million for the Local Bridge Advisory Board was, in his mind, key to being highly considered for funding.
“We had internal discussions on how much money we can really ask for and be successful on getting this grant, essentially,” Myland said. “We were originally matched at 10 percent, Southwest Region gave that $1.9 million, and we essentially would be asking for over $4 million. I’ve never seen the Large Bridge Advisory Board give over $4 million to a project. Normally, they say you need to have more funds for the project. So, we went back and forth a bit, and getting it under $4 million was the best way to secure funding, because $4 million is a huge amount.”
“We put up $1.25 million on this project. That’s a hard number to swallow, sitting in my chair, to say $1.25 million, we could’ve been at 5 percent or 10 percent, but this is 18 percent,” Lindsey added. “I do believe it made the difference, so Farrand Road is funded, but in 2026 there’s going to be this gaping hole of $1.25 million we’re putting into that bridge.”
Lindsey said he is hoping to get some help to offset the $1.25 million the road commission will put into the bridge in 2026, saying it might be a bit more difficult to do than the Covered Bridge was.
“You’re not going to have a Treasures of St. Joe County party for the Farrand Road bridge,” Lindsey said. “I’ll be approaching senators and representatives and try to get some help.”
Bids for the project are expected to go out in 2025.
Myland said the Farrand Road bridge was one of four bridges in “recent history” he has had concerns with, including the Covered Bridge, Prairie Corners bridge and Constantine Road bridge, and that he was glad three of the four – the Constantine Road bridge “will be an issue in the future,” he said – will now be taken care of.
Overall, Lindsey said he is looking forward to having the bridge worked on.
“It’s good to have it checked off the list,” Lindsey said. “We’ve got 100 bridges in St. Joseph County, and this is the biggest one. This has been the hardest one to take care of, so it’s just a really good feeling to have it checked off the list.”
In other business…
- The road commission approved the addition and rescindment of multiple policies, including rescinding an old policy and adopting a new one related to travel and expenses and a new policy on investment funds.
- The road commission discussed compensation for board members, but took no action.
- The road commission approved a resolution to sign an MDOT contract for the next mile of Lutz Road reconstruction.
T• he road commission approved an 80/20 health insurance plan through Blue Cross Blue Shield for 2024.
Robert Tomlinson can be reached at 279-7488 or firstname.lastname@example.org.