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Residents push to build bridge to Harsens Island

December 28, 2019 GMT

HARSENS ISLAND, Mich. (AP) — After a dock collapse interrupted ferry service, Harsens Island residents insist there’s a need for a bridge connecting their home to the mainland.

The shutdown left islanders and visitors temporarily stuck on either side for five days, according to The Detroit News, angering residents who rely on the service to get to jobs, stores and medical care. The island is part of St. Clair County at the mouth of the St. Clair River.

The dock collapse led about 200 people to gather at Clay Township Hall to discuss the incident and other concerns, including a recent ferry rate increase to $12 per passenger vehicle per round-trip.

The increase, approved last month by state police, is part of what’s leading some residents to favor a bridge.

David Bryson, owner of Champion’s Auto Ferry, apologized to residents for their inconvenience but said he did everything possible to get the service up and running.

The newspaper reported some residents feel they deserve better than waiting days for repairs.

Midgie Fannon suggested filing a class-action lawsuit against the rate increase and alleged unsafe conditions and lack of maintenance at the ferry and dock.

Paul Opsommer, a representative from Central Transport, a bridge builder owned by Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun, said a “bridge is a very real possibility.”

“We have two conditions,” Opsommer said. “The bridge would have to make sense financially for both the residents and the bridge company, and the local residents and local elected officials would have to be supportive of the project.”

Opsommer said nearly three dozen residents have contacted him, and he anticipates meeting with them in January.

“Yes, we have been interested in the project for a long time. However, some local elected officials and numerous residents have opposed the idea,” Opsommer said. “That appears to have changed from what I saw at the meeting.”

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This story has been corrected to show that the fare increase was approved by the Michigan State Police, not the Michigan Public Service Commission.