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Posted on: December 19, 2019

[ARCHIVED] Bay City Enters Historic Agreement on Liberty and Independence Bridges

Bay City, Michigan, December 19, 2019 - At its December 16, 2019 meeting, the City Commission of Bay City unanimously approved an acquisition and development agreement with Bay City Bridge Partners (BCBP) for services related to two city drawbridges that span the Saginaw River.

The agreement begins a transition period during which time project partners will work with public and private stakeholders to finalize implementation plans. The agreement is a significant first step for Bay City to provide BCBP with an option to assume operational control and, ultimately, ownership of the Liberty and Independence Bridges.  

Under terms of the agreement, BCBP will pay Bay City $2 million immediately as part of a $5 million overall development fee for the bridges. BCBP also immediately assumes financial responsibility for operation and maintenance of both bridges, helping to address concerns for Bay City motorists and pedestrians, while saving the City more than $1.5 million in annual expenses.  

"Last night’s vote was the culmination of many years of deliberation and careful planning," said City Manager Dana Muscott. "The reality is that is these bridges needed to be fixed or, in the case of Independence Bridge, replaced. This agreement represents the most sensible approach to ensuring that critical repairs are made while allowing the City to focus its resources on other infrastructure projects that are a vital component in the daily lives of our residents, businesses and visitors."   

Bay City conducted comprehensive research which included input from residents, business owners and state and county officials as well as a request for proposal (RFP) process designed to find the most qualified partners and the best overall financial deal for the City. The agreement capitalizes on the growing trend of public-private partnerships, or P3s, that are becoming increasingly necessary to implement significant infrastructure projects while minimizing costs to local taxpayers. 

After the transition period concludes, the plan calls for BCBP to commit to a multi-million-dollar replacement of the Independence Bridge, which is currently deemed structurally deficient. A new span would be added to the east of the existing bridge, raising its vertical height by up to 12 feet to reduce bridge openings associated with smaller recreational watercraft. The Liberty Bridge would also benefit from significant investment for rehabilitation and modernization, including updates to its mechanical and electrical systems.

After work on both bridges is completed, BCBP would implement tolls to recoup its investment. Tolls for Bay City residents with a transponder are expected to be as low as 0.50 cents per crossing, or residents can purchase a monthly unlimited pass for $15. No tolls will be charged to Bay City residents with transponders who are determined to be below the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services poverty guidelines. 

"The Bay City bridges project is a great example of how public-private partnerships can benefit communities with new or improved infrastructure, relieving municipalities of the financial stress of trying to maintain outdated facilities," said Kurt M. Brauer, a partner at law firm Warner Norcross + Judd LLP, which represented Bay City in the transaction. "We had months of discussion and debate, including citizen input, leading up to the unanimous Commission vote. We had input from contractors who are expert in what’s required and the best ways to get the job done. It was a smooth and professional negotiation and we’re proud to have been part of the Bay City team.”

To accomplish its goals, BCBP assembled a team of specialists in finance, design, construction, and operations and maintenance with extensive drawbridge experience. 

“We are extremely happy that Bay City has entrusted us with this project and we look forward to becoming an active, engaged part of the city and contributors to its growth,” says Ken Szeliga, vice president of construction and operations for United Bridge Partners, parent company of Bay City Bridge Partners. 

BCBS will also reimburse Bay City for professional fees incurred for services leading up to this decision.  

"I’d like to also thank the many Bay City officials, employees, volunteers and community members including our dedicated City Commissioners, city attorney Neil Wackerly and Warner attorneys William Lentine and Sarah Harper who spent countless hours moving this project forward," said Muscott.  

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