There are four bridges that cross the Saginaw River in Bay City. Two of them are owned and maintained by the Michigan Department of Transportation while the other two are owned by the city. Those city owned bridges might be sold and tolled.

The Bay City Times reports that the city is facing millions of dollars in upcoming maintenance on the Independence and Liberty bridges. The city is considering a plan to sell their bridges to a private company, which would rehab and maintain them, but charge a fee to cross.

By taking ownership of the bridges, the firm would relieve the city of a substantial liability, but it would also charge a toll to the thousands of motorists who use the spans on a daily basis.

It's a proposal that Bay City officials are calling a "no brainer" and something that needs to be seriously looked at in the near future.

The fee is proposed to be $2 per car, with a discount of $1 for city residents.

Toll Bridges in Michigan

No doubt you're familiar with Michigan's most famous bridge, and a toll bridge at that, the mighty Mackinac Bridge. Toll bridges also connect Michigan with Ontario at Detroit, Port Huron and Sault Ste. Marie. With the exception of the privately-owned Ambassador Bridge in Detroit, all of these toll bridges are government maintained.

Social Media Reaction and Opinion

What is being proposed in Bay City is something different altogether. And the reaction is, unsurprisingly, negative on social media.

One commentor on the newspaper article says,

Toll roads are built and paid for by people who want convenience - like in California or Chicago for traffic - this bridge is a MAIN thoroughfare for thousands of Bay City residents, including my family, who can use it up to 4 or 6 times a day depending on what kid needs his Ipod or forgot his shoes or has a ball game that we need to go to. Not to mention the fact that we work daily over the bridge. This is insane.

And that really gets to the heart as to why this situation in Bay City is different. This isn't a tolled route to bypass a more congested free option. There are only 4 bridges across the Saginaw River in the city. The two city-owned ones are vital links between sections of the city which is divided by the river.

A commentor on the Times Facebook page:

This is absolutely ridiculous, especially since the city is cut in half. Even though I live on the west side, there is family on the east, restaurants that I eat at on the east, and many more things. If there was a toll, I would use the other bridges or I would stop going to these businesses.

If it happens in Bay City, could it be a trend that spreads elsewhere to Michigan? Aging infrastructure too much of a burden in your city/township/country/state budget? Just sell it off and toll the drivers who already paid to build the road or bridge with their taxes. This is a worrisome precedent for a Michigan city to make.

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