The Fort Street Bridge has been an important connection over the Rouge River since the 1920s. The existing bridge was built in 1922 as a result of the dredging and enlargement of the Rouge River for the Ford River Rouge Plant. By the early years of the 21st century, the existing bascule bridge was nearing the end of its useful life and required replacement. Michigan DOT engaged H&H to study alternatives and then take the most feasible option through final design.
There were several critical goals for the new bridge, for which H&H was the lead design firm. It had to provide a 135-foot navigation channel, accommodate five traffic lanes and two pedestrian/bikeways, minimize ROW impacts, avoid tunnels and existing subpiers, and provide a striking visual enhancement to the community.
The new Fort Street Bridge is the heaviest bascule leaf in the world at 8.2 million pounds and the second largest by deck area at over 15,000 square feet. The design, which had to account for obstructions in the footprint of the new bascule pier, utilizes a single-leaf bascule with an overhead counterweight, a first on the MDOT system. Due to the efficient rolling-lift design, it requires minimal power to operate the bascule span under normal conditions. However, the two 150-HP motors will move the bascule span during high wind and heavy ice conditions. Stringers, floorbeams, and two 13-foot deep pony trusses support the steel grid-reinforced concrete deck.
The bridge is a vital part of an overall Fort-Rouge Gateway Project that focuses on historic heritage and on pedestrian and bicycle-friendly improvements. The Governor’s Michigan Showcase Trail (also known as the Iron Belle Trail and the North Country Trail runs from Belle Isle to Wisconsin), Underground Railroad Bicycle Route (which goes from Mobile, Alabama to Ontario), and the United States Bicycle Route System will all utilize the bridge.