Wilkes Bridge Problems Mean Headaches For Drivers, Repair Crews

The Wilkes Bridge over the industrial seaway opened just over a year ago, but it's already had plenty of problems. Wednesday was one of the worst.

One of the bridge spans got stuck open just before 6:30 a.m. and stayed that way for more than six and a half hours.

Unfortunately, there are multiple problems with the fairly new bridge. It's actually run by a computer system.

A few weeks ago, a computer problem forced the bridge operator to switch to a manual operation. It was in manual mode Wednesday morning when a mechanical malfunction caused a breakdown.

M-DOT repair crews moved into position while police officers assumed the task of traffic diversion.

One officer said it's visitors who use Cowan Road to get to the interstate who were having the greatest difficulty "because they're not aware of how to go any other route."

Wednesday morning's traffic tie up was even more troublesome on the north side of the bridge. Along with the stuck drawbridge, drivers and police had to contend with a jack knifed 18 wheeler on nearby Seaway Road.

By late morning, with the bridge still not budging, a traffic plan emerged. Minutes later M-DOT road crews laid down the plastic cone barrier.

Call it bad timing, but shortly after setting out the cones, the stuck bridge span dropped slowly into place.

"It certainly has had more than its share of problems," District Engineer Ricky Lee said. "It is a concern and we're working toward that now. And it will be corrected before it's finally accepted."

The bridge closed down once again Wednesday afternoon for about an hour, but reopened just before 5:00 p.m.