INTERNATIONAL BRIDGE ADMINISTRATION
Meeting today, the bi-national Sault Ste. Marie Bridge Authority (SSMBA) board unanimously approved an $8.9 million (USD) contract with DeVere Construction from Alpena, Michigan, to construct a new toll plaza in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.
"This is a great day for the sister cities of Sault Ste. Marie and our customers," said SSMBA Board Chair Linda Hoath. "This project will improve customer service, plaza safety, and operational efficiency."
The project will replace the 52-year-old toll plaza and office building.
The new toll booths and office building will be constructed approximately 150 feet (45 meters) south of the existing booths and building.
This will require realignment and reconstruction of the I-75 traffic ramps immediately south of the toll plaza.
Construction on the plaza project is scheduled to begin in June and conclude in November 2015.
Hoath, from Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, was joined by other SSMBA board members and a small group of local officials for a groundbreaking ceremony today.
Mayor Tony Bosbous of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, spoke about the importance of the project and the key role the bridge plays in the unique relationship between his city and Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.
International Bridge Authority (IBA) General Manager Phil Becker detailed how the relocation of the toll booths will address a significant problem: the proximity of the existing booths to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) secondary truck inspection bays.
"Currently, southbound trucks exiting the CBP unloading docks do not have sufficient room to maneuver and proceed straight through the toll booths," Becker said. "They often need to back up against traffic to safely access the toll lanes."
IBA officials said the relocation also will address the extremely short traffic merge distance between the upper and lower CBP inspection booths and the toll booths.
The existing five toll lanes will be replaced by seven lanes with the toll booths oriented diagonally across the traffic lanes to maximize the southbound separation distance from the CBP docks.
In addition to this project, the IBA will install a new $2.3 million toll system.
The system will provide customer convenience enhancements, especially to the electronic debit card program.
Uninterrupted traffic through the toll plaza will be maintained throughout the project and construction activities have been planned to minimize customer inconvenience.
On June 9, the northbound I-75 on ramp at Easterday Avenue will be closed for three weeks to allow for reconstruction of the traffic ramp and construction of temporary toll lanes around the existing toll booths.
The ramp will be open to traffic on Friday, June 27.
A signed detour route to the 3 Mile Road traffic on ramp will be in place during this period.
Existing toll booths will continue to serve northbound and southbound traffic during this work.
On July 7, northbound toll traffic will be routed on temporary lanes, around the construction zone at the existing toll booths, to access temporary toll booths located immediately north of the existing booths.
Two toll booths will serve southbound traffic and two will serve northbound traffic until late October, when the new toll booths will be finished and in operation.
The IBA has scheduled public open houses featuring displays depicting the new facilities and toll traffic routing plans.
IBA representatives will be available to talk about the project.
The public meetings are scheduled from 4 to 7 p.m. May 20 at the Delta Sault Ste. Marie Waterfront in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, and from 4 to 7 p.m. May 21 at the Ramada Plaza Hotel Ojibway in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.
The maintenance and operation of the International Bridge is totally self-funded, primarily from tolls collected.
In addition to the toll plaza, five other significant projects to repaint portions of the bridge and repair the bridge deck are planned over the next 15 years, requiring an unprecedented expenditure of $55 million (USD).