Transportation & Community Design

Stop the
Hartman-Hammond Bridge

The Grand Traverse County Road Commission is again pushing the outrageously expensive, ineffective, and environmentally damaging idea of building a giant bridge and four-lane road though the cherished Boardman River Valley, south of Traverse City. Far better, far less expensive solutions exist. Together, we can save what we value and stop this tragically misguided plan.

Stop the Hartman-Hammond Bridge

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Hartman-Hammond Bridge project?

Commonly referred to as "the Boardman Bridge," the Hartman-Hammond Bridge project actually includes both a 2,200-footlong four-lane bridge over the river and a four-lane road paved through beautiful forest and wetlands.

The bridge and road together would stretch nearly two miles, from U.S. 31 eastward to a realigned and widened Hartman Hammond Road, across a new bridge, and connected to a new linkage to Hammond Road. The estimated cost has recently tripled to as much as possibly $320 million for the roads and a bridge that, if built, might rank as the most expensive county-owned bridge in the nation. It will vault 60 to 70 feet in the air atop enormous concrete towers. Inflation, delays, and the cost of acquiring right-of-way—including homes and businesses that would be destroyed for the project—will push the price far higher.

Why are Groundwork and its partners opposed to the bridge and road?

Groundwork, in partnership with the Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council, supports far less expensive, more effective, and less environmentally damaging ways to reduce traffic problems in and around Traverse City. The road commission's own consultant, in a 2019 study, recommended NOT building the bridge and to instead implement a set of improvements throughout the system. In addition to moving more cars for far less money, a strategic systemwide “mix of fixes” approach would help everyone, not just people traveling south of Traverse City. In 1999, local residents held public planning workshops to solve the region’s traffic congestion problem without destroying its prized places and published a recommended plan, Smart Roads: Grand Traverse Region, calling for the redesign of South Airport Road and the Beitner-Keystone corridor.

A giant bridge would desecrate the Boardman River Valley, which has recently undergone the largest dam removal project in Michigan history and the largest-ever wetlands restoration in the Great Lakes region. The project removed three dams and reconnected 160 miles of the river and its tributaries. The Boardman is a Michigan Natural River and Blue Ribbon trout stream, and its valley bursts with plant and animal life and is prized for fishing, hiking, paddling, and other outdoor recreation.

Would local people have to pay the hundreds of millions of dollars for the bridge?

Local taxpayers would have to approve a new property tax for perhaps 20 years to pay for the lion's share of the project through a new tax, which the Grand Traverse County Road Commission discussed as recently as its June board meeting. State transportation funding generally would not be available, according to the road commission’s lead project consultant, because the road-and-bridge would not be part of a state highway system, and federal dollars would be minimal.

Didn't the government already cancel the project in the past?

Yes, a similar project proposed by the Grand Traverse County Road Commission was cancelled in 2004 following a lawsuit filed by Groundwork, NMEAC, the Sierra Club, and other partners in 2002 and formal environmental objections to the project from the then-Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, Michigan Department of Natural Resources,  the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over the road commission’s application to fill wetlands, degrade wildlife habitat, and bury the headwaters of a prized trout stream. Citizen opposition in 2001 convinced the Michigan Department of Transportation to drop a planned 30-mile highway bypass centered on the bridge project. In 1987, voters rejected a $25 million road package that included the bridge.

How can I get involved?

Sign up for Groundwork's newsletter to keep current on opportunities to engage through public comment and meetings. Write commissioners on the Grand Traverse County Road Commission and the Grand Traverse County Commission. You may also contact Groundwork's Transportation & Community Design Director, James Bruckbauer.