Portage Lake Lift Bridge
Overview
 
The Portage Lake Lift Bridge (officially the "Houghton–Hancock Bridge") connects the cities of Hancock
Hancock, Michigan
Hancock is a city in Houghton County; the northernmost in the U.S. state of Michigan, located on the Keweenaw Peninsula, or, depending on terminology, Copper Island. The population was 4,634 at the 2010 census...

 and Houghton, Michigan
Houghton, Michigan
Houghton is a city in the U.S. state of Michigan's Upper Peninsula and largest city in the Copper Country on the Keweenaw Peninsula. As of the 2010 census, the city population was 7,708. It is the county seat of Houghton County...

, USA, across Portage Lake
Keweenaw Waterway
The Keweenaw Waterway is a partly natural, partly artificial waterway which cuts across the Keweenaw Peninsula of Michigan; it separates Copper Island from the mainland. Parts of the waterway are variously known as the Keweenaw Waterway, Portage Canal, Portage Lake Canal, Portage River, Lily Pond,...

, a portion of the waterway which cuts across the Keweenaw Peninsula
Keweenaw Peninsula
The Keweenaw Peninsula is the northern-most part of Michigan's Upper Peninsula. It projects into Lake Superior and was the site of the first copper boom in the United States. As of the 2000 census, its population was roughly 43,200...

 with a canal linking the final several miles to Lake Superior
Lake Superior
Lake Superior is the largest of the five traditionally-demarcated Great Lakes of North America. It is bounded to the north by the Canadian province of Ontario and the U.S. state of Minnesota, and to the south by the U.S. states of Wisconsin and Michigan. It is the largest freshwater lake in the...

 to the northwest. US 41
U.S. Route 41 in Michigan
US Highway 41 is a part of the United States Numbered Highway System that runs from Miami, Florida, to the Upper Peninsula of the US state of Michigan. In Michigan, it is a state trunkline highway that enters the state via the Interstate Bridge between Marinette, Wisconsin, and Menominee,...

 and M-26
M-26 (Michigan highway)
M-26 is a state trunkline highway in the U.S. state of Michigan, running from two miles east of Rockland to its junction with US Highway 41 in Copper Harbor. It generally runs southwest-to-northeast in the western half or Michigan's Upper Peninsula...

 are both routed across the bridge.

The original bridge on this site was a wooden swing-bridge built in 1875. This bridge was built by James P.
Encyclopedia
The Portage Lake Lift Bridge (officially the "Houghton–Hancock Bridge") connects the cities of Hancock
Hancock, Michigan
Hancock is a city in Houghton County; the northernmost in the U.S. state of Michigan, located on the Keweenaw Peninsula, or, depending on terminology, Copper Island. The population was 4,634 at the 2010 census...

 and Houghton, Michigan
Houghton, Michigan
Houghton is a city in the U.S. state of Michigan's Upper Peninsula and largest city in the Copper Country on the Keweenaw Peninsula. As of the 2010 census, the city population was 7,708. It is the county seat of Houghton County...

, USA, across Portage Lake
Keweenaw Waterway
The Keweenaw Waterway is a partly natural, partly artificial waterway which cuts across the Keweenaw Peninsula of Michigan; it separates Copper Island from the mainland. Parts of the waterway are variously known as the Keweenaw Waterway, Portage Canal, Portage Lake Canal, Portage River, Lily Pond,...

, a portion of the waterway which cuts across the Keweenaw Peninsula
Keweenaw Peninsula
The Keweenaw Peninsula is the northern-most part of Michigan's Upper Peninsula. It projects into Lake Superior and was the site of the first copper boom in the United States. As of the 2000 census, its population was roughly 43,200...

 with a canal linking the final several miles to Lake Superior
Lake Superior
Lake Superior is the largest of the five traditionally-demarcated Great Lakes of North America. It is bounded to the north by the Canadian province of Ontario and the U.S. state of Minnesota, and to the south by the U.S. states of Wisconsin and Michigan. It is the largest freshwater lake in the...

 to the northwest. US 41
U.S. Route 41 in Michigan
US Highway 41 is a part of the United States Numbered Highway System that runs from Miami, Florida, to the Upper Peninsula of the US state of Michigan. In Michigan, it is a state trunkline highway that enters the state via the Interstate Bridge between Marinette, Wisconsin, and Menominee,...

 and M-26
M-26 (Michigan highway)
M-26 is a state trunkline highway in the U.S. state of Michigan, running from two miles east of Rockland to its junction with US Highway 41 in Copper Harbor. It generally runs southwest-to-northeast in the western half or Michigan's Upper Peninsula...

 are both routed across the bridge.

The original bridge on this site was a wooden swing-bridge built in 1875. This bridge was built by James P. Edward of Fox and Howard Inc. of Chicago. Three local men raised $47,000 dollars in stocks for the toll bridge. Construction began in the spring of 1875 and was finished in the spring of 1876. This was replaced by a steel swing-bridge built by the King Bridge Company
King Bridge Company
The King Iron Bridge & Manufacturing Company was a late-19th-century bridge building company located in Cleveland, Ohio. It was founded by Zenas King in 1858 and subsequently managed by his sons, James A. King and Harry W. King and then his grandson, Norman C. King, until the mid-1920s...

 in 1901. This bridge was damaged when a ship collided with it in 1905. The center swinging section of the bridge was replaced and a similar incident almost occurred again in 1920, but the ship was able to stop by dropping its anchor, which snagged on the bottom of the lake. In 1959, this bridge was replaced, at a cost of about 11-13 million US dollars (sources vary), by the current bridge which was built by the American Bridge Company
American Bridge Company
The American Bridge Company is a privately held civil engineering firm specializing in the construction and renovation of bridges and other large civil engineering projects, founded in 1900, and headquartered in Coraopolis, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Pittsburgh.-Products and industry positioning:The...

.

As its name states, the bridge is a lift bridge
Lift bridge
A vertical-lift bridge or lift bridge is a type of movable bridge in which a span rises vertically while remaining parallel with the deck....

 with the middle section capable of being lifted from its low point of four feet clearance over the water to a clearance of 100 feet (30.5 m) to allow boats to pass underneath. The Bridge is the world's heaviest and widest double-decked vertical lift bridge. More than 35,000 tons of concrete and 7,000 tons of steel went into the bridge, which replaced the narrow 54-year old swing bridge, declared a menace to navigation on the busy Keweenaw Waterway. Its center span "lifts" to provide 100 feet (30.5 m) of clearance for ships. The bridge is a crucial lifeline, since it is the only land based link between the north (so-called Copper Island
Copper Island
Copper Island is a local name given to the northern part of the Keweenaw Peninsula , separated from the rest of the Keweenaw Peninsula by Portage Lake and the Keweenaw Waterway.- Geography :The area was "isolated" by dredging in 1859 and construction in the...

) and south sections of the Keweenaw peninsula.

The lower deck of the bridge was originally open to rail traffic, but this level is now a road and it is raised up to road level in the summer for cars. This is done so that smaller boats may pass below without needing to disrupt car traffic. It is lowered in the winter, when ice prevents boats, so that snowmobile traffic can enter under the roadway.

Hancock and Houghton hold an annual celebration called Bridgefest to commemorate the opening of the bridge which united their two communities.

External links

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