The Blue Water Bridge is a twin-span international bridge spanning the St. Clair River that links Port Huron, Michigan, USA to Sarnia, Ontario, Canada. The Blue Water Bridge connects with Highway 402 in Ontario and with both Interstate 69 and Interstate 94 in Michigan. The original span is a cantilever truss bridge and the second span is a continuous tied-arch bridge. The first bridge is a cantilever truss with a total length of 6,178 feet (1,883 m). The main span is 871 feet (265 m). The second bridge is a continuous tied arch with a total length of 6,109 feet (1,862 m). The main span is 922 feet (281 m). Together, the two bridges are one of the busiest transportation arteries between the United States and Canada, the second-busiest crossing after the Ambassador Bridge at Detroit-Windsor. They also provide one of the four shortest routes of land travel between the eastern seaboard of the United States, and the central United States. The Blue Water Bridges are jointly owned and maintained by Canada and the United States. The Blue Water Bridge Authority is in charge of the Canadian side, and the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) is in charge of the U.S. side. The bridges charge a toll, which is used to pay for bridge maintenance and operations.

The first bridge was opened to traffic on October 10, 1938. The lead engineer was Ralph Modjeski. This bridge originally had two lanes for vehicles as well as sidewalks; the latter were removed in the 1980s to make room for a third lane for automobiles. The third lane for each direction started from the apex of the bridge in order to accommodate long lineups entering each sides' respective border crossings. In 1964, the eastern terminus of Interstate 94 was completed at the foot of the Blue Water Bridge on the American side. Traffic volumes steadily increased, spurred by the completion of Highway 402 in 1982 which provided a continuous freeway link to 401 on the Canadian side. In 1994, Interstate 69 was completed to Port Huron which meant that three expressways converged on the two-lane bridge. As a precursor to the upcoming twinning project, the customs and toll collection booths on both sides were extensively reconfigured in the early 1990s. On the American side, the I-beam girder overpass was replaced by a much wider embankment, which also added a four-story customs office building in the center. On the Canadian side this necessitated the demolition of the original booths that had been in use since 1938; these booths were noted for their Art Deco style but they were too low to accommodate semi-trailer trucks which had been directed to the outside. In 1992, it was determined that traffic on the bridge had exceeded its rated capacity. So bridge authorities decided to add a second span in order to accommodate the high traffic. During the debate over the form of the second span, five possible designs were purposed from 1994–1995. Over half of public opinion had mostly favored a duplicate of the first bridge, while the cable-stayed bridge came in second with around 21%. The Blue Water Bridge Authority had rejected both designs, due to the duplicate creating a false sense of history, while the cable-stayed option was feared to overshadow the existing bridge. Another cost-effective but unpopular design was the parallel truss. The continuous-tied arch design, which was a distant third place in polls, was chosen for two reasons. One was that it blends in with the original span yet stands out on its own, and the other is lower maintenance costs because fewer spans are involved. The twinning project was a combined effort between Modjeski & Masters (American engineers) and Buckland & Taylor Ltd. (Canadian engineers). During the construction, two temporary masts were erected to assist in the construction of the tied arch; the towers were painted red and lighted, enabling them to be seen from afar. The approaches to the new bridge use box girders, compared to the original which hold up the road deck with trusses. The second three-lane bridge, just south of the first bridge, opened on July 22, 1997. The first bridge was immediately closed for extensive renovation, and reopened in 1999. During this period, the new span used a three-lane configuration reminiscent of the one employed on the original bridge. A flyover ramp on the U.S. side temporarily diverted westbound traffic from the new bridge to the toll plaza, which was blocked off after the original bridge was rehabilitated. In March 2009, the Canadian government announced that CA$13.5 million ( US$10.8 million) in funding would be allocated toward upgrading the border crossing facilities at the Blue Water Bridge. The work was scheduled to begin in May 2009.

Depiction in popular culture
The Blue Water Bridge was featured in the Kim Basinger movie Bless the Child (2000), where it represented a New York City bridge. It is also featured in the Danny DeVito movie Renaissance Man (1994), directed by Penny Marshall.

Documentary Videos
MDOT and the Blue Water Bridge Authority sponsored the production of videos during the construction of the bridge. The videos, produced by LTS Productions, have been compiled into a DVD titled Blue Water Bridge Documentary Collection. Footage shows all phases of construction including pile driving, pier building, steel fabrication, concrete pours, crane lifts, steel erection, and deck work. It also covers the ceremonies and public celebrations including the Bridge Walk by 200,000 US and Canadian citizens, the 700-voice Children’s International Choir, and the fireworks display. The DVD has bonus footage supplementing two feature presentations. The first, Second Span Blue Water Bridge, is an expanded 30-minute version of the original souvenir video. The second, Twinning the Blue Water Bridge, is a 55-minute story told in their own words by the ironworkers, contractors, engineers and dignitaries who share personal observations, emotions and experiences.


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Building Activity

  • updated a digital reference
    about 6 years ago via Annotator
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