NILES, MI – On Thursday, March 12th, 2015, a semi was driving north on M-51 south of Niles, Berrien County. While attempting to drive under US-12, the load, an excavating machine, became lodged under the bridge.
The crash damaged the bridge under the right shoulder of eastbound US-12. All lanes of M-51, eastbound US-12 and the ramp from westbound US-12 to southbound M-51 were closed for several hours while crews cleaned up the crash and removed the excavator, and Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) staff examined the bridge.
After examination, MDOT engineers determined the damaged beam would not comprise safety of motorists on M-51 or US-12. As a precaution, the right shoulder of eastbound US-12 will remain closed until the beam is either repaired or replaced.
A team of MDOT bridge engineers is planning to do a detailed inspection and examination of the bridge early the week of March 16 to determine if the beam can be repaired, or if it needs to be replaced. Repairs likely could be performed this year, but a beam replacement project likely would not be completed until the 2016 construction season.
The time needed to draft a contract, award the contract to the low bidder, acquire the steel and start construction means replacement couldn’t start until next year. The replacement project likely would take about a month and would require lane and ramp closures.
There are no cost estimates yet for either beam repair or replacement.
The driver has not yet been identified. The cost to repair the bridge damage will be charged to the driver and his or her insurance company.