The old Luna Pier Bridge was built in 1955

LUNA PIER — Recently, I-75 was closed briefly in order to demolish the Luna Pier Bridge. In the past, I’ve written about several historic bridges in Monroe County, including the Dunbar Road Bridge, which is the overpass for Dunbar Road where it meets I-75. Both the Luna Pier Bridge and Dunbar Road Bridge were built using the curved T-beam design bridge design.

The Michigan State Highway Department (now MDOT) first issued standard plans for concrete T-beam bridges during the 1913-1914 biennium. They have significant historic value to bridge historians because the design represents the remaining surviving example of the very attractive expressway overpass design that provides for greater under-bridge clearance. It is this fact (to enable trucks and other high-profile vehicles to travel safely under them) that led bridge designers to choose the T-beam design on Michigan freeways from the early 1950s through the early 1960s.

This is a shot of I-75 bridge construction that took place in the early 1950s. The Luna Pier Bridge was one of many interstate bridges built along the Detroit-Toledo Expressway (I-75) and I-94 corridors in Michigan that predated the Eisenhower Interstate System.
This is a shot of I-75 bridge construction that took place in the early 1950s. The Luna Pier Bridge was one of many interstate bridges built along the Detroit-Toledo Expressway (I-75) and I-94 corridors in Michigan that predated the Eisenhower Interstate System.

Previous Coverage: I-75 River Raisin Bridge part of 1950s highway construction

The Luna Pier Bridge was constructed in 1955 by Traverse City-based Northern Builders. Started by Jack and Dick Zimmerman, the firm was involved in bridge and home construction – building Michigan bridges since the early 1930s and many Michigan homes during the post-World War II boom. The curved T-beam design was easily adaptable to rural road overpass bridges, like the Luna Pier and Dunbar Bridges. Similarly, the Dunbar Bridge was built by the W.H. Knapp Company of Monroe, which submitted the low bid of $118,676.70. All of the bridges were part of the 37 bridges and grade separations constructed for the Detroit-Toledo Expressway beginning in the early 1950s and completed in June 1956.

Previous Coverage: Monroe County history: First Monroe Street Bridge built in 1819

Survey work for the Detroit-Toledo Expressway was completed by June 1952, and bridge work on the approximately 25-mile highway route began during the 1953-54 biennium. The main road bed, bridges and grade separations were designed to allow for the future addition of a third traffic lane in each direction, which was realizes in the mid-1970s, among other improvements. Of the interstate highways being built outside of the Detroit metropolitan area, the routes for I-75 and I-94 (Detroit to Chicago) were the furthest toward completion by the mid-1950s. They provided the basis for what would become the Eisnehower Interstate System.

This is the plaque for the recently demolished Luna Pier Bridge, which was located over I-75 in Monroe County. Built by Traverse City-based Northern Builders in 1955, the Luna Pier Bridge and other I-75 Monroe County bridges are part of a $126 million investment to rebuild more than four miles of I-75 between Erie Road and Otter Creek Road.
This is the plaque for the recently demolished Luna Pier Bridge, which was located over I-75 in Monroe County. Built by Traverse City-based Northern Builders in 1955, the Luna Pier Bridge and other I-75 Monroe County bridges are part of a $126 million investment to rebuild more than four miles of I-75 between Erie Road and Otter Creek Road.

The new Luna Pier Bridge will be a big improvement for modern-day travel, according to Luna Pier Mayor Jim Gardner. Gardner says, “I know that before I-75 was built, Luna Pier Road handled Lakewood and Lakeside traffic, while Allen Cove and residents on the north end used Cousino Road and Allen Cove Road, now called Gaynier Rd. The two traffic lanes of the old bridge used every bit of the road surface for traffic lanes leaving no room for pedestrians except in the travel lanes of the heavily used truck route. The new bridge will be double the width with a 10-foot shoulder on the south side, two travel lanes with a barrier separating the non-motorized lanes on the north side of the bridge. That will connect non-motorized traffic with Victory Road without pedestrians and cyclists mixing it up with truck traffic over a narrow bridge deck. It is a much-needed improvement from when only cars mattered to transportation planners. Thankfully now we know the value of complete streets.”

The Nadeau Road Bridge was one of five bridges built along I-75 in the early 1950s. Like the recently-demolished Luna Pier Bridge, the Nadeau Road Bridge is a curved T-beam bridge. Built by the Louis Caravaglia Company for the Michigan State Highway Department in 1954, the Nadeau Road Bridge and others like it are, according to HistoricBridges.org, the earliest use of this very attractive expressway overpass that was built on Michigan freeways from 1954 through about 1961.

Both the Luna Pier Bridge and the Gaynier Road Bridge are part of a $126 million investment to rebuild more than four miles of I-75 between Erie Road and Otter Creek, including rebuilding five bridges (those already mentioned along with the Otter Creek, Muddy Creek and Sulphur Creek Bridges as well as the entrance/exit ramps at Otter Creek and Luna Pier Roads). The majority of work for this project is taking place in 2023-2024.

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— Tom Adamich is president of Visiting Librarian Service, a firm he has operated since 1993. He also is project archivist for the Greening Nursery Co. and Family Archives and the electric vehicle awareness coordinator at Monroe County Community College.

This article originally appeared on The Monroe News: The old Luna Pier Bridge was built in 1955