Iconic Saginaw Street brick replacement underway; $5 million project to continue through 2024

By Elizabeth Ireland-Curtis

The iconic bricks on Saginaw Street, along with the Weather Ball are part of Flint’s identity and history. The bricks on Saginaw are being replaced in a two-year project that began Monday, April 10. Mayor Sheldon Neeley presented plans for the historic restoration at a press conference that same day.

Construction begins on Saginaw Street downtown Flint in April 2023. (Photo by Tom Travis)

A website, FixTheBricksFlint.com, can be accessed by residents for street closings and updates. City Engineer Mark Adas said he hopes to make the project “as painless as possible” which, when completed by the end of 2024, will restore Saginaw Street from Court Street to the Flint River.

750,000 bricks to be laid

The bricks on Saginaw Street were originally laid in 1898.  According to a May 5, 2022 Flint Journal article, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) removed the bricks in 1936 and re-laid them over new concrete, using 40,000 hours of labor. At that time, the cost was $142,950. There are 750,000 bricks on the street — and 400,000 of them will be new.

In May of 2023, Flint City Council approved contracts with LA Construction of Flushing and civil engineering company Wade Trim  for the $5 million it is costing today. Part of the current expense includes purchase of special bricks manufactured to withstand the pressure of heavy traffic.

Phase one

Phase one, already underway, started with the section of Saginaw Street from Court Street to Third Street. Traffic is being re-routed to Harrison for northbound, and Beech Street for southbound travel. Construction will be paused for The Crim Festival of Races and Back to The Bricks, both of which occur in August. After Labor Day, the project will resume, according to city officials in an April 10 press conference.

Second and Final phase

The second phase will restore Saginaw Street from Third Street to Second Street and begin in September. Phase three begins in the spring of 2024 and will renovate Second Street to First Street. The final phase will start in September 2024 and will tackle Saginaw from First Street to the River Trail Crossing next to the University of Michigan -Flint Pavilion, according to a city press release.

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Local businesses deal with renovations

Halo Burger has closed temporarily because their drive-thru could not be operational during the renovation, according to a sign in their window.

Soriano’s, on the corner of Court Street and Saginaw, has remained open. Owner Erica Soriano told EVM their takeout business was affected initially but has picked up during the second week of construction. She also said her business was not given notice by the city but learned about the street closure from a TV station the day before the project began.

Funding for the project is shared by the City of Flint’s Major Roads Fund ($3.4 million), Michigan Department of Transportation ($2.3 million), and the Federal WIIN Act (Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation) ($2 million).

The State’s funding is part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) passed in January 2021. “The BIL will rebuild America’s roads, bridges and rails, expand access to clean drinking water, ensure every American has access to high-speed internet, tackle the climate crisis, advance environmental justice, and invest in communities that have too often been left behind.”

Along with the bricks being replaced, underground utilities will be addressed, including replacement of the 12-inch water main, electrical upgrades, lighting and parking meter conduit installation and two gas main replacements.

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In addition, the project will replace 80 to 90% of the sidewalks and tree grates on Saginaw Street. American Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant crosswalks and ramps will ensure accessibility. In order to reduce the damage to intersections caused by turning vehicles, the intersections will be repaved with concrete that is stamped to replicate the look of bricks but will withstand traffic abrasion.

Banner photos by EVM Managing Editor Tom Travis.

EVM reporter Elizabeth Ireland-Curtis can be reached at irelandcurtis@comcast.net.

Author: Tom Travis

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