Modjeski and Masters, in association with Monsarrat and Pratley, was tasked by the Port Huron-Sarnia International Bridge Company to study a proposed bridge over the St. Clair River. The originally proposed bridge was a two lane bridge featuring a 2,149-foot cantilevered through-truss main span. This design was optimal to both span the river and accommodate the required 150-foot vertical clearance above the river. The onset of the great depression delayed further work on the project.
Using data from the original study, Modjeski and Masters completed the design of the new Blue Water Bridge. The design featured a cantilevered through-truss on an alignment slightly north of the originally proposed location at Bay Point. This location allowed for a shorter main span of 871 feet since it spanned a more narrow section of the river.
Construction commenced with a groundbreaking ceremony on June 23, 1937 in the City of Port Huron, Michigan. Work would start here first and then on the Canadian side a month later.
The superstructure work commenced with steel erection on the Canadian approach structure in December 1937. Work on the main span would start in January, 1938.
Construction of the main span proceeded from both sides of the river and was connected on May 25, 1938. Major construction would be finished in August, 1938 with the completion of the concrete deck.
The newly completed Blue Water Bridge opened to traffic on October 10, 1938. It carried 2,000 cars and 6,775 pedestrians on the first day.
Modjeski and Masters was tasked to study increased traffic volumes and make recommendations for improving the facility. Upgrades to the toll plazas and bridge lighting were recommended by the firm and construction commenced later in the 1950's.
With traffic increasing at a steady rate, the Michigan Department of Transportation recognized the need for a twin span. Modjeski and Masters, working with Canadian engineers Buckland and Taylor (now COWI), started work on an alternatives analysis for the new bridge. The report was delivered in October 1993. Among several recommended bridge types, a tied-arch bridge design was selected. The two bridges represent very different structural systems, yet each reflects the era of their construction while sharing broadly similar geometry.
The new structure would be the first major bridge to be designed and constructed in accordance with the AASHTO LRFD Bridge Design Specifications.
Construction on the second Blue Water Bridge started in April of 1995 on an alignment 125-feet south of the existing bridge. Work on the substructure would be completed early the next year.
In February 1996, construction commenced on the bridge superstructure. Work would continue until early 1997.
The Second Blue Water Bridge was officially completed and opening to traffic on July 22, 1997. The project went from concept to completion in just five years. The project was delivered on time and within budget.
The project receives numerous awards from prestigious industry trade associations, including:
2000 Prize Bridge Competition Award (Long Span Category)
NSBA / AISC
1998 Merit Award for major structures over $10 million
U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration
1998 Outstanding Steel Project
Ontario Institute of Steel Construction
1998 Prize Bridge Competition Merit Award (Long Span Category)
NSBA / AISC
1997 Outstanding Civil Engineering Achievement
American Society of Civil Engineers
1997 Outstanding Technical Achievement Award
Ontario Association of Certified Engineering Technicians and Technologists
Modjeski and Masters prepared a design contract to replace and widen the deck, strengthen the steel superstructure, improve traffic signals, and general upgrades to the bridge. Construction support and inspection services were also provided.
As of November 1999, the $21M rehabilitation of the original bridge was completed and traffic was shifted back to the structure. The original bridge was designated to carry Westbound traffic while the new bridge carried Eastbound traffic.
Modjeski and Masters has been trusted to perform annual inspections and general repairs on both bridges for many years. Most recently, a remedial design for the anchor link and gusset plates was performed on the original bridge.