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Grosse Ile Toll Bridge Hits the Century Mark

Last week one of the state’s most historic bridges turned 100 years old.

The metal swing bridge is one of the longest metal truss bridges in the state, spanning over 1000 feet long.
The metal swing bridge is one of the longest metal truss bridges in the state, spanning over 1000 feet long.

The Grosse Ile Toll Bridge was built between by 1912-13 by the Grosse Ile Bridge Co. 

Paul Smoke, 61, president and owner of the GIBC, and relative to founder Edward W. Voigt, said his great-grandfather originally built the bridge to carry his horse-drawn beer wagons across the Channel. 

Voigt, a horse farmer, entrepreneur and owner of the largest brewery in the United States at the time, oversaw construction of the bridge, which opened Nov. 27, 1913 to the general public. The toll bridge was the first automotive link to the island, Smoke said Wednesday in an interview.

The bridge was said to have cost about $160,000 to construct, according to histroicbridges.org.

Since then, the GIBC has completely renovated and expanded the bridge. Major repairs were made to the bridge in 1965 and 1992. “The result of being hit twice by lake freighters,” Smoke said. And as far as he’s concerned, the century-old landmark hasn’t had a mechanical failure in over 40 years.

“If we find something that’s wearing out or needs to be replaced, we get it done before it fails,” he said.

Over the years, GIBC has received numerous praises for the infrastructure and maintenance of the bridge, including awards from the American Society of Civil Engineers and Consulting Engineers Council of Michigan, according to these historical documents

In 2007, it was reported about one-quarter of the daily vehicle traffic travels to and from Grosse Ile over the bridge. 

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