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S.S. Badger Docking Facility Repairs


U.S. Highway 10 used to be broken into two segments by Lake Michigan. In 2015, the Lake Michigan Carferry Service (S.S. Badger) between Ludington, Michigan, and Manitowoc, Wisconsin, was officially designated as part of Highway 10, thus making the highway contiguous between Fargo, ND, and Bay City, MI.

The 410 foot S.S. Badger has carried passengers and their vehicles between the two communities since 1953. The Badger can carry 600 passengers and 180 automobiles as well as tour buses, RVs, motorcycles and commercial trucks. It makes nearly 450 crossings each season with approximately 1,500 commercial vehicles and 100,000 passengers. It employs more than 200 people. With decades of use, the S.S. Badger docking facilities at Ludington and Manitowoc experienced significant deterioration and had become unstable. Sustaining this link of U.S. 10 was equally important for travelers and commercial cargo.


Foth was hired to perform a structural inspection of the two cities’ docking facilities in 2016. The condition of the structures was found to be in an advanced stage of failure. For Ludington, the fender walls were severely out of plumb and bulging landward. Timber cluster dolphins were severely damaged and in need of replacement or significant renovation. In Manitowoc, the timber fender system and dock wall were found to be in very poor condition. The dock wall was bulging outward and showed significant signs of erosion behind the wall. Many of the fender piles and face panels were also broken or missing. Additional temporary steel sheet piles were added behind the dock wall with cable ties to help hold the failing fendering and dock wall in place, however, significant repairs and improvements to the bulkhead and fender system were necessary to provide reliable, long-term, docking and berth facilities.

Foth, together with SmithGroup, prepared a design concept and cost estimate for the repairs of the facilities. The estimated cost for repairs, engineering, and construction management exceeded $9M. Foth teamed with the cities of Ludington and Manitowoc and the Lake Michigan Carferry Service to prepare grant requests to the U.S. DOT FASTLANE program and the Wisconsin DOT Harbor Assistance Program (HAP). The project was awarded $5M by FASTLANE and nearly $3M by HAP. These grants made the project realizable.

In April 2018, Winter Storm Evelyn caused severe damage to the docking facilities and revetment at Manitowoc. Foth provided construction management services to repair storm damage including final design, permitting, bidding, construction engineering and management for the project that included full demolition and replacement of the dock and fender walls with king piles, sheet piles, rock anchor tension deadman system, and a timber fender face. Foth’s background knowledge of the site, and expertise in engineering, marine infrastructure, construction management, and grant management allowed this fast-track project to be completed in six weeks.


Foth provided construction management for the long-term, planned repairs and improvements, and grant management assistance for the FASTLANE and HAP grants. The improvements are significant because the S.S. badger not only serves tourists and visitors, but benefits businesses in both Wisconsin and Michigan that rely on the Badger to ship product so they don’t have to go through Chicago or around the lake to the north.


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