July 22, 1997
Nearly six decades after the inauguration of the original Blue Water Bridge between Michigan and the Canadian province of Ontario, an additional span for this structure was opened to motor vehicles. The construction of this new span, which is also known as the Second Blue Water Bridge, was a joint project of the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) and the Canadian crown corporation Blue Water Bridge Authority. This span, as with its older counterpart, crosses the St. Clair River and serves as a key link between Port Huron, Michigan, and Sarnia, Ontario.
The Blue Water Bridge’s first span, which was fully opened to traffic during the fall of 1938, had been constructed as a joint project of the Michigan Department of State Highways (MDSH) and the Ontario Department of Highways (the present-day Ministry of Transportation of Ontario) MDSH was reorganized as the Michigan Department of Highways and Transportation (MDHT) in 1973; five years later, MDHT was renamed the Michigan Department of Transportation.
By the early 1980s, both American and Canadian transportation officials were seriously considering another span for the bridge due to increased traffic in the region. “It was not a question of if we needed a second bridge,” recounted MDOT project development engineer Charlie Jennett in a 1997 interview with the Port Huron-based Times Herald. “It was where and when it would be built.”
Ultimately, the Second Blue Water Bridge was constructed just south of the original version. (This new span can be seen in the foreground of the above photo.) Ten days prior to being opened to motor vehicle traffic, the new structure was officially dedicated. These festivities included a ribbon-cutting ceremony, and the public officials taking part in that ritual included John Engler, governor of Michigan; and Herb Gray, deputy prime minister of Canada.
As another part of the celebration, approximately 200,000 people walked across the Second Blue Water Bridge the following day. The first 20,000 walkers to make their way to the center of the new structure were given commemorative buttons that declared: “I Walked the Blue Water Bridge Second Span.” On the American side, MDOT’s logistical efforts that day included overseeing public transportation arrangements for people wanting to walk across the span. The Times Herald noted, “Michigan Department of Transportation employees kept buses that shuttled people to the bridge flowing, and they did it with a smile.”
As MDOT’s bridge project manager, Bobbi Welke oversaw construction of the American section of the second span. “This was a team effort,” she told the Times Herald. “The skilled laborers, the professionals . . . everyone involved with this job has been terrific to work with. I couldn’t have asked for better people.”
The twin-spanned Blue Water Bridge is jointly owned and operated by the United States and Canada. MDOT is in charge of maintaining the American side, while Federal Bridge Corporation Limited is now responsible for the Canadian side.
Photo Credit: Optionbooter (licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/deed.en)
For more information on the Second Blue Water Bridge, please check out https://structurae.net/en/structures/second-blue-water-bridge
Additional information on both spans of the Blue Water Bridge is available at https://www.michigan.gov/mdot/0,4616,7-151-87728_11070-22062–,00.html#:~:text=Second%20Blue%20Water%20Bridge%20under,(for%20the%20Michigan%20half).