Bay City is home to four bascule draw bridges that are manned 24 hours a day during the shipping season, which runs April 1st through December 31st.
The City of Bay City owns and maintains the Independence and Liberty Bridges. Since 2022, United Bridge Partners has leased both bridges from the City of Bay City. Tolling information for both bridges can be found by visiting the website of Bay City Bridge Partners.
The State of Michigan (MDOT) owns, operates and maintains the remaining two: Veterans Memorial and Lafayette Bridges.
- Bridge Information
Bridge openings for the passage of recreational vessels only for Independence and Veterans bridge occur from 3 minutes before to 3 minutes after the hour and half-hour, and the Liberty Street and Lafayette Street Bridges open for the passage of recreational vessels only from 3 minutes before to 3 minutes after the quarter-hour and three-quarter hour.
Draws of the Independence Bridge, Liberty Bridge, Veterans Memorial Bridge, and the Lafayette Bridge, all in Bay City shall open on signal except as follows:
- From April 15 through November 1, between the hours of 6:30 a.m. and 7 p.m., Monday through Friday, except federal holidays, the draws of the Independence and the Veterans Memorial
- From January 1 - March 31, a 12-hour notice must be given for an opening. To request draw opening of bridges during such time please call the numbers listed below:
Independence Bridge City of Bay City 989-892-2351 Liberty Bridge City of Bay City 989-894-0807 Lafayette Bridge MDOT 989-671-1535 Veterans Memorial Bridge MDOT 989-671-1535
- Bridge History
Independence Bridge is a drawbridge in Bay City. It carries Truman Parkway over the Saginaw River and was opened in 1973 to replace the earlier Belinda Street Bridge (built in 1893).
Until 1864, the only means to traverse the Saginaw River between West Bay City and Bay City was by boat or ferry. The Third Street Bridge crossing played an important role in the growth of these communities, which merged as one Bay City in 1905. In 1976, the old reliable swing span bridge mysteriously collapsed one evening after opening to allow the passing of a lake freighter. A great debate followed about the location of its replacement, the Vermont – Woodside connection just north of it won out and the Liberty Bridge was built, a four lane draw bridge. (Alan Flood)
- Excerpts from U.S. Coast Pilot & Saginaw River Navigational Regulations
These regulations are excerpts from the U.S. Coast Pilot, Saginaw River Drawbridge, Navigational Regulations and should be adhered to by our recreational boaters as well as commercial freighters.
117.11 Unnecessary Opening of the Draw
No vessel owner or operator shall:
a. Signal a drawbridge to open if the vertical clearance is sufficient to allow the vessel, after all lowerable nonstructural vessel appurtenances that are not essential to navigation have been lowered to safety to pass under the drawbridge in the closed position; or
b. Signal a drawbridge to open for any purpose other than to pass through the drawbridge opening.
- The operator of each vessel requesting a drawbridge to open shall signal the drawtender, and the drawtender shall acknowledge that signal. The signal shall be repeated until acknowledged in some manner by the drawtender before proceeding.
- The signals used to request the opening of the draw and to acknowledge that request shall be sound signals, visual signals, or radiotelephone communications.
- Any of the means of signaling described in this subpart sufficient to alert the bridge being signaled may be used.
(b) Sound Signals
- Sound signals shall be made by whistle, horn, megaphone, hailer, or other device capable of producing the described signals loud enough to be heard by the drawtender.
- As used in this section, "prolonged blast" means a blast of four to six seconds duration, and "short blast" means a blast of approximately one second duration.
- The sound signal to request the opening of a draw is one prolonged blast followed by one short blast sounded not more than three seconds after the prolonged blast. For vessels required to be passed through a draw during a scheduled closure period, the sound signal to request the opening of the draw during that period is five short blasts sounded in rapid succession.
- When the draw can be opened immediately, the sound signal to acknowledge a request to open the draw is one prolonged blast followed by one short blast sounded not more than 30 seconds after the requesting signal.
- When the draw cannot be opened immediately, or is open and shall be closed promptly, the sound signal to acknowledge a request to open the draw is five short blasts sounded in rapid succession not more than 30 seconds after the vessel's opening signal. The signal shall be repeated until acknowledged in some manner by the requesting vessel.
117.21 Signaling for an Opened Drawbridge
When a vessel approaches a drawbridge with the draw in the open position, the vessel shall give the opening signal. If no acknowledgment is received within 30 seconds, the vessel may proceed, with caution, through the open draw.
117.31 Operation of Draw for Emergency Situations
a. When a drawtender is informed by a reliable source that an emergency vehicle is due to cross the draw, the drawtender shall take all reasonable measures to have the draw closed at the time the emergency vehicle arrives at the bridge.
b. When a drawtender receives notice, or a proper signal as provided in 117.15 of this part, the drawtender shall take all reasonable measures to have the draw opened, regardless of the operating schedule of the draw, for passage of the following, provided this opening does not conflict with local emergency management procedures which have been approved by the cognizant Coast Guard Captain of the Port:
- Federal, State, and Local government vessels used for public safety;
- Vessels in distress where a delay would endanger life or property;
- Commercial vessels engaged in rescue or emergency salvage operations; and
- Vessels seeking shelter from severe weather.
- Bay City Bridge, Traffic, and Operations Study
The Bridge, Traffic & Operations website is available for study findings and general information. The study findings were presented to the City Commission on November 19, and the final report was presented to the community at the Public Meeting on December 11.
The study examined current and projected traffic volumes, crash history, and costs for five scenarios. It also included community input via surveys both online and on paper that we available at City Hall, environmental constraints, and mitigation consisting of redesign options to accommodate changes in traffic patterns if a bridge were to be removed.
This study is the first step in developing a solution to the City’s struggle to maintain Liberty and Independence Bridges. Now that five of City’s options have been developed and compared, the next steps will be an Economic Impact Study, the City Commission’s direction on the option to pursue, and funding pursuits.
Bridge Study – Final Report 12-10-18
Bridge Study Public Presentation 12-10-18
Displays for Public Meeting 12-11-18
Bridge Study Public Presentation 8-30-18
20180122 – Independence and Liberty Bridge Discussion – Mtg 1
20180122 – James Barcia Letter re- Independence Bridge
Bay City Bascule Bridges