The Portage Lake Lift Bridge that connects Houghton and Keweenaw counties sees 5,000 more vehicles a day than the Mackinac Bridge. Built in 1959, the lift bridge has sustained large amounts of snow, rain and wind. It's the only transportation route that connects Houghton and Keweenaw counties, where getting across is essential. "There TMs a lot of police response or EMS runs to and from the hospital or fuel delivery or grocery delivery," said Jack Dueweke, emergency coordinator for Houghton-Keweenaw Counties. But some say its sustainability may be nearing its end.
Roughly 25,000 cars cross the Portage Lake Lift Bridge each day, and with the structure being more than 50 years old, some officials say maybe the time has come to build a new one.
"From my perspective as an emergency manager, that would cut our risk way down, way down," Dueweke said.
But officials of the Michigan Department of Transportation say a new bridge is not in the near future. "The bridge is in very good shape; at this time we don't know of anything that is wrong mechanically or structurally with this bridge, said MDOT Engineer Andy Sikkima in a phone interview.
Because the lifespan of a bridge is unknown, Dueweke says the counties are well prepared to deal with any emergencies that may occur. And because of that same uncertainty, a single route of transportation between two counties is something that's concerning.
There TMs no community that I know of in Michigan or the surrounding states that has a single point of access as we do for 20,000 people that live north of that bridge, Dueweke said.