Crumbling Infrastructure: These 8 Michigan Counties Have the Worst Bridges

Written by Kaleigh Moore
Updated: June 2, 2023
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Michigan, the upper Midwestern state, is known for its thriving agriculture, continental climate, and long freshwater shoreline. The Wolverine State is a popular tourist destination thanks to its strategic location around the Great Lakes. As one of the largest states in the U.S., Michigan has an impressive infrastructure network of roads, highways, and bridges. 

Unfortunately, some of Michigan’s infrastructure was commissioned in the 19th and 20th centuries. For this reason, some of its bridges are old and crumbling. Recently, there have been concerns about the poor conditions of bridges linking various counties in Michigan state. It’s best to know the respective counties of these faulty bridges, whether you’re a resident or a tourist. In this guide, we highlight 20 out of the 83 Michigan counties that have the worst bridges. 

A Brief History of Michigan 

Saginaw Bay

Michigan is popularly known as The Great Lakes State, owing to its strategic location. It borders four of the five Great Lakes of America.

©Tim Fuller Photography/Shutterstock.com

Around the 1780s, present-day Michigan was a U.S. territory covering land from neighboring states of Ohio, Indiana, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. By the 1800s, large portions of Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, North Dakota, and South Dakota were added to the Upper and Lower Peninsulas to form the 83 counties that now make up the state of Michigan. Of these, Wayne County is the largest and was the first to be established by the acting governor in 1796. 

Michigan is popularly known as The Great Lakes State, owing to its strategic location. It borders four of the five Great Lakes of America: Erie, Superior, Huron, and Michigan. It goes without saying that Michigan is a coastal state. In fact, about 60% of its coastlines run along these four Great Lakes. The size of these lakes explains why Michigan has the most significant number of bridges in the country. 

According to the National Highway Administration, there are over 11,000 bridges connecting the 83 counties in Michigan. Of these, over 1,000 are deteriorating. Each county has at least 50 bridges connecting various cities, towns, airports, ports, and truck terminals across the state. Let’s zero in on the counties with the worst bridges.

How Many Bridges are In Michigan? 

The Mackinac Bridge

In a report by the National Bridge Inventory, Michigan ranked 16th for the country’s highest percentage of unsafe bridges. 

©Kenneth Keifer/Shutterstock.com

The American Road Transport & Builders Association (ARBA) gives the total number of bridges in the state as 11,314. Of these, 1,354 have been declared “structurally unsafe” by the Transportation for America group. That means 12% of all bridges in the state are in bad shape and in need of significant repairs. 

This number has increased considerably since 2018 when about 1,196 bridges were deemed structurally deficient. Structural deficiency means the physical components like decks, steel, and support have deteriorated. 

A bridge can also be classified as functionally obsolete, meaning the bridge fails to meet modern safety requirements. In another report by the National Bridge Inventory, Michigan ranked 16th for the country’s highest percentage of unsafe bridges. 

Eight Michigan Counties with the Worst Bridges

Of the 83 counties in Michigan, more than 20 have the most significant number of unsafe bridges. Wayne, Genesee, Saginaw Macomb, and Ingham top the list of counties with crumbling bridges. Conversely, Leelanau and Otsego are among the counties with just a few unsafe bridges. Below is a comprehensive list of eight counties with the worst bridges in Michigan.  

Wayne County

Wayne County is the largest county in Michigan, with 1,032 bridges. Of these, as of 2021, 403 are reported by the US Federal Highway Administration (FHA) to be in perfect condition. Meanwhile, 494 are in fair shape, and 135 are in the worst condition. 

Wayne is home to famous cities like Detroit, Trenton, and Wyandotte. They connect to neighboring cities of Ontario and other parts of Canada through a vast network of international bridges. 

The bridges in Wayne County are crucial to its economy, as well as to Canada’s economy. They depend on the stability of the Ambassador Bridge and the Detroit – Windsor Tunnel. 

Out of the worst bridges in Wayne County, a few notable ones are reportedly in need of urgent repairs. They include: 

  • Bagley Avenue Bridge (est. 1891, 132 years old)
  • Miller Road Bridge (est. 1898, 125 years old)
  • Woodmere Cemetery Bridge in Detroit (est. 1911, 112 years old)
  • Ford Street Bridge in Dearborn (est. 1904)

Genesee County 

Genesee County has 375 bridges that form its vast transport network. These bridges link various towns and cities, like Linden on the Shiawassee River, Grand Blanc, and Fenton.

The FHA lists 56 out of 375 bridges in Genesee County as structurally deficient. And the majority of these bridges connect to major cities. If not fixed, these bridges could paralyze the transport system in cities like Flint, Grand Blanc, Fenton, and Linden. 

Below are some of the famous bridges in Genesee that are in need of immediate renovation:

  • M-13 Bridge in Flint (est. 1894)
  • Bristol Road Bridge (est. 1912)
  • Mill Road Bridge (est. 1921)
  • State Road Bridge in Davison (est. 1915)

Saginaw County 

Saginaw’s historical and cultural county is located on the shores of Saginaw Bay near Lake Huron. Its proximity to the famous lake means most of the county’s major cities are linked by a number of bridges totaling 315. These cities include the Bay City, Zilwaukee, and Frankenmuth. Unfortunately, over 30% of bridges in Saginaw county (a total of 56) are deplorable, according to the FHWA. They include: 

  • Center Road Bridge (est. 1920)
  • Holland Road Bridge (est. 1913)
  • Wadsworth Avenue Bridge (est. 1922)
  • Charles Avenue Bridge (est. 1898)

Monroe County 

Michigan’s Monroe Country is known for its rich history, natural beauty, tourism, and agriculture. It boasts natural attraction sites, bustling industries, and thriving crop production. The county’s economy largely depends on its tourism, agricultural, and industrial potential. This is why the vulnerability of its 297 bridges is a state and federal crisis. 

For example, most of Monroe’s robust bridges have seen better days. They can no longer support the heavy traffic crossing them daily. Of the 297 bridges in Monroe, 50 are in bad shape and have been earmarked for renovation. However, only a few have been successfully repaired. Some of the county’s oldest bridges that are no longer stable include:

  • Lewis Avenue Bridge in Temperance (est. 1888)
  • Dunbar Road Bridge (est. 1916)
  • Huletts Landing Road Bridge in LaSalle (est. 1896)
  • Laplaisance Road Bridge (est. 1920)
  • Dixie Highway Bridge in Frenchtown (est. 1915)

Washtenaw County 

Mention Washtenaw County and the vibrant college town of Ann Arbor comes to mind. This area is also called the Motor City West, which is home to the University of Michigan. 

This county features a vibrant nature, spectacular animal species, and recreational parks. Additionally, the magnificent Huron River runs through the county. Add to this an entrepreneurial community and advanced medical research institute, and you see why a reliable transport system is vital.

About 262 bridges connect the county’s top cities, like Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Saline, and Dexter. However, 49 bridges are not structurally safe, according to FHA. Some of the oldest bridges in Washtenaw include: 

  • 137-year-old Wagner Bridge
  • Platt Road Bridge (est. 1891)
  • 178-year-old Dixboro Road Bridge
  • North Territorial Road Bridge (est. 1880)

Ingham County 

Ingham County is the heart of Michigan. It’s the home of Lansing, the state capital. Interestingly, Ingham is where we find the most prominent public research institute in America: Michigan State University. This famous university stands among other notable institutions and historical landmarks. The county has several water bodies, such as the Red Cedar and Grand Rivers. For these reasons, it boasts an extensive network of bridges. In fact, an estimated 237 bridges link its major cities, small towns, and neighboring counties. 

If you live in the Wolverine State, especially in Lansing, you’ve probably used the Michigan Avenue Bridge, Hagadorn Road Bridge, or Kalamazoo Street Bridge.

The FHA classified 39 of these 237 bridges as structurally deficient. Authorities should prioritize their renovation. These old bridges, built in the past two centuries, can no longer keep up with the heavy traffic of modern times. A few examples include:

  • The Okemos Road Bridge (est. 1910)
  • The Aurelius Road Bridge (est. 1926)
  • The 100-year-old Kalamazoo Street Bridge 

Macomb County 

Having the largest freshwater lake (St. Clair) means Macomb County features the most bridges in Michigan. Macomb also has established military bases like the Detroit Arsenal and the Michigan Air National Guard. Its many bridges spread out across the area, connecting the neighboring cities of Ontario and Windsor in Canada. 

The Ambassador Bridge, Blue Water Bridge, M-59 Bridge, and Garriott Avenue Bridge are among the 418 bridges in Macomb County. Additionally, thirty-eight bridges in Macomb are almost 100 years old and structurally unsafe. 

These old bridges were constructed in the late 1880s and early 1900s. They include the Romeo Road Bridge over the Clinton River, built in the 1880s, and the Canal Road Bridge in St. Clair Shores, established in 1913.

Oakland County 

Michigan’s Oakland County has everything from a thriving automotive industry to a vibrant shopping and dining culture. Beautiful beaches and recreational parks dot the landscape.

However, amidst all this beauty, Oakland suffers from the same problem that ails nearby counties in the Great Lakes State. The county has 503 bridges, but some have grown old and deplorable. As of 2021, about 34 bridges are in desperate shape. 

Others in need of redesigning include the 128-year-old Holly Road Bridge, the Van Hoosen Road Bridge, built in 1902, and the Waldon Road Bridge, built in 1907. These are among the 30-plus oldest bridges in the county that MDOT deemed as functionally obsolete. This terminology indicates they no longer meet modern safety standards.  

Other Michigan Counties with Crumbling Bridges 

As mentioned, Michigan has 83 counties with over 11,000 bridges across the state. More than 30 counties have bridges in need of repairs. 

Wayne, Genesee, Saginaw, Macomb, and Ingham have the highest number of structurally deficient and functionally obsolete bridges (between 35 to 100). But it’s not all doom and gloom. In fact, most bridges in more than 40 counties are in perfect condition and pose no danger. 

For example, counties like Otsego, Ogemaw, Montmorency, and Leelanau record few to no bridges with structural problems. If anything, there are about 10 counties with about 35 faulty bridges in the medium range. These counties include: 

Allegan County

Allegan County has 242 bridges. The Federal Highway Administration lists 72 as being in good condition, 139 as fair, and 31 as in poor condition. 

Calhoun County 31

Of the 213 bridges in Calhoun County, only 35 have positive ratings on the FHA report. The vast majority, totaling 147, are fair, while 31 are faulty. 

Clinton County

Clinton has 216 bridges, with 57 of them rated positively and 128 not so bad off. However, about 31 bridges fall into either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.  

Bay County 

Out of the 165 bridges in Bay County, 28 are in the worst conditions and require restructuring and redesigning. In fact, some are up to 80 years old and do not meet modern safety standards and requirements.

Branch County 

26 out of 118 bridges in Michigan’s Branch County are in desperate shape. These included the Gower Road Bridge, which eventually closed in 2019, and the Central Road Bridge, which spans the Coldwater River. Fortunately, both are under the MDOT’s Bridge Bundle Program, set for renovation in 2024. 

St. Clair County

St. Clair County has 327 bridges and is one of the few counties with the best bridges in Michigan. Of 327 bridges, the FHA classifies 140 as good condition and 162 as fair. Twenty-five of them need repairs. These bridges include the St. Clair River Tunnel that connects Port Huron and Ontario, CA. They also include Smith’s Creek Bridge and Palmer Road Bridge, which date back to the late 1890s and early 1920s, respectively. The Michigan Department of Transportation reports that some of these bridges are earmarked for renovation in the next few years. 

How Dangerous Are Bridges in Michigan?

Mackinac Bridge

Among the most dangerous bridges in Michigan is the historic Mackinac Bridge. This famous bridge connects the upper and lower peninsulas.

©KyleHohler/Shutterstock.com

Among the most dangerous bridges in Michigan is the historic Mackinac Bridge. This famous bridge connects the upper and lower Peninsulas, the A-94 in Detroit, and the Miller Road Bridge in Dearborn. The number of these faulty bridges varies per county, with some counties recording higher numbers. Through MDOT, Michigan is committed to rebuilding most of these bridged, some of which are over 100 years old. 

MDOT further noted that although old age and harsh weather are the primary reasons for crumbling infrastructure, financial restraints are another issue. Despite these challenges, the federal, state, and county governments continue to enact preventative measures. They close bridges deemed too dangerous, erect temporary support structures on fairly good bridges, and carry out renovation programs. All these actions aim to mitigate the challenge of Michigan’s crumbling infrastructure. 

Summary of 8 Michigan Counties with the Worst Bridges

RankCountyNumber of Poor Bridges
1Wayne135
2Genesee56
3Saginaw56
4Monroe50
5Washtenaw49
6Ingham39
7Macomb38
8Oakland34

The photo featured at the top of this post is ©


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