HOUGHTON, Mich. (WJMN) – The rules and regulations for how the Portage Lake Lift Bridge operates are changing this summer as part of a temporary trial period run by the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT).
As part of the trial, the U.S. Coast Guard will allow MDOT to restrict bridge openings to the top of the hour and the half hour from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. The period will last from May 26 through September 6 and will exclude federal holidays.
During the trial period, the bridge will still be opened on signal to pass any vessel more than 300 feet in length or any time five or more vessels gather at the bridge requesting an opening.
The trial is part of efforts to alleviate congestion and improve mobility at the bridge, and will help determine whether to make the move permanent.
“Having the openings restricted to these scheduled times should help to create predictability for motorists to plan their travel,” said Rob Tervo, MDOT Ishpeming Transportation Service Center Manager. “Scheduled openings are commonly used for other bridges around the country to help with traffic flow and we hope that will be the case here as well.”
The public will have the option to provide feedback to the U.S. Coast Guard about the change throughout the summer. Comments will play into the decision on whether to make the change permanent. Yiu can read the official notice about the change and about how to leave comments here.
“The Portage Canal is a federally regulated waterway,” Tervo said. “So any permanent changes in operating schedule must be approved by the Coast Guard through a formal rulemaking process.”
In addition to operating the bridge for vessels, MDOT will lower the bridge to allow permitted oversized loads to cross on the lower deck. However, these crossings are restricted to low-traffic times of day. MDOT will continue to operate the bridge for routine maintenance, but such maintenance is generally performed before 7 a.m. or after 7 p.m. when possible.