Construction on pedestrian bridge near Hartwick Pines State Park underway
Dan Sanderson | Staff Writer
Construction on one last piece of the puzzle for Crawford County non-motorized trail users and visitors is underway.
The pedestrian and bicycle bridge which is being constructed across I-75 was part of the original trail request back in 1999, connecting Grayling to the Hartwick Pines State Park by the way of the Grayling Bicycle Turnpike. All other sections of the project have been completed.
Repurposed federal earmarked transportation funds were identified and approved to partially fund the bridge portion of the Grayling Bicycle Turnpike. The total bridge project is over $1.9 million. The federal earmark funds are $912,859. Additional funds to construct the bridge came from federal and state funds such as $116,930 in toll credits, $407,722 in access to state park funds, $200,252 in transportation alternative program grants, and $260,737 Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) funds.
Because of the types of funding, the project is being administered by the Crawford County Road Commission.
The bridge is a separate structure from the I-75 overpass and takes non-motorized traffic off the Hartwick Pines overpass traveling to and from Hartwick Pines State Park.
Currently, northbound non-motorized traffic needs to cross the road and re-cross to ride or walk against traffic on the narrow overpass.
“This is a locally driven pedestrian safety project that’s in the original Grayling trail project plan and has been discussed for many years,” said MDOT Gaylord Transportation Service Center Manager Jay Gailitis. “This new bridge will provide a separate crossing for users of the non-motorized path linking Grayling and Hartwick Pines State Park, adding to their safety and convenience.”
The bridge will provide a link from Hartwick Pines State Park to the Iron Belle Trail, which is currently being planned and developed. The Iron Belle Trail connects Belle Isle to Ironwood. This 781-mile trail coming from the south will eventually connect three state parks, which include North Higgins, Hartwick Pines, and Otsego Lake passing through Grayling. These state parks receive over 400,000 visitors per year and is expected to encourage safe, non-motorized route between them and increase non-motorized visits from one park to another and the communities along the trail.
“Having the Iron Belle Trail come through Grayling is a gift to our community,” said Wayne Koppa, chairman of the Crawford County Trails Committee. “Hopefully, by having this connection, it will draw more visitors to Grayling who will visit the many attractions we have to offer and will choose to stay here.”
The bridge is scheduled to be completed in November.
Greg Kinser, unit supervisor for the Hartwick Pines State Park, said the pedestrian bridge will provide better access to all state parks in the region.
“I am very hopeful that this will increase the overall experience of trail uses. I know it will increase their safety,” Kinser said “Overall, it will facilitate better access both to the community of Grayling and Iron Belle Trail as it gets developed.”