August 25, 2023 Bay City Bridge Partners in it ‘for the long haul’
Originally Published on AUG 22, 2023
The Bay City Bridge Partners asked Bay City commissioners to help promote and explain the Liberty and Independence bridge projects during a presentation at their regular meeting Aug. 21.
“Our focus remains for 2023, we want to continue the account creation obviously for residents and non-residents,” said Terry Velligan, general manager for the Bay City Bridge Partners. “We also want to foster the relationship and communication channels with commissioners and administration. We want to get out in Bay City and also the townships surrounding Bay City to provide information on the Liberty and Independence Bridge and also on obviously tolling and the customer service center.”
Velligan also said that with the construction and rehabilitation of the bridges, driving habits have shifted and he wants the Liberty and Independence bridges to be as useful for drivers as the other bridges in Bay City.
For non-residents, Velligan talked about the $15 pass that allows for unlimited crosses of the bridge, which he said would benefit those who live outside the city limits who need to frequently cross Liberty Bridge and Independence Bridge when they are finished. Bay City residents currently get free crossings with a BC-Pass transponder until 2028.
“We want to be a part of the community, but we also want to provide the information and have that opportunity for residents and non-residents to ask us questions, to learn about the project, to learn about the tolling, or learn about the customer service,” said Velligan.
The Liberty Bridge is currently open, with construction being completed earlier in the year and tolling that started on June 16. The Independence Bridge is still being rehabilitated, with the southbound lanes continuing to be closed with a traffic shift to allow two-way traffic on the northbound lanes.
The northbound lanes are scheduled to be closed during next year’s construction season, with the traffic shift happening on the southbound lanes, and the internal electrical work is scheduled to be done over the winter.
Kevin Bischel, project delivery director for the Bay City Bridge Partners, said during the presentation that they want to keep the traffic continuing to move across Independence Bridge with brief closures to allow cement pouring or crane work that requires more room for work to be conducted.
After the presentation, Commissioner Jesse Dockett asked about pricing for a variety of different scenarios, including individuals who were paying per cross and those who were paying with a prepaid balance. It was explained that the “pay-as-you-go” would be connected to a bank account, a debit card, or a credit card and would be billed accordingly based on the crosses.
The confusion that Dockett said that he and his residents had was the notifications that were sent out saying that there needed to be a $25 down payment for accounts that were registered as prepaid but for Bay City residents (who are free until 2028).
Velligan said those who are set up to “pay-as-you-go” as well as Bay City residents will not need to put any money down but will need to register a form of payment.
Commissioner Christopher Girard asked how residents are billed if they don’t have a credit or debit card to use or don’t have banking information that could be used. The Bay City Bridge Partners does not take cash as a form of payment for the tolls according to Velligan. Girard also asked if companies who use commercial vehicles would be able to receive any special rates for a larger fleet of vehicles on an individual basis.
Commissioner Andrea Burney had a related question regarding those who rely on public transportation, noting Bay Metro vehicles re-routing to avoid the toll bridges because they aren’t able to afford the tolls for commercial rates.
Velligan said the commercial rates will be the same as of right now, but if they are able to work out a situation for a discount for a commercial fleet, the Bay City Bridge Partners would look into it. As for public transportation and for residents and drivers who are unable to provide an electronic form of payment, he suggested that the commissioners meet with him one-on-one for a further discussion.
Velligan said throughout the presentation that the Bay City Bridge Partners are in this “for the long haul” and that he wants to continue to reach out to the community.
“I’m glad that we’re back to, ‘We want to be a part of the community long-term,'” said Dockett. “Three years ago that was the message we got and then about two years ago that message started to dwindle. It really felt like, to the members of the community, that United Bridge Partners was not a part of this community and it was some outside entity, and it really rubbed a lot of people the wrong way, and I think we are seeing the effects of that.
“I don’t know what your numbers are, but I drive over Liberty Bridge and Independence Bridge every day and I see the volume on it compared to what it was before. I see there is a start and a road to getting back and being a part of the community where people are trusting and having that again.”
A previous version of this story mistakenly listed Independence Bridge twice and said it was open for tolling as of June 16 when it was Liberty Bridge.