Mackinac Bridge attracts 21,000 for annual bridge walk, plus a bridge history

Mandi Angelique

MACKINAC – The Mackinac Bridge's annual Bridge Walk reopened this year to a throng of approximately 21,000 people after a one-year break, with winds and a gloomy sky that gave in to the bright sunlight.

The bridge, which was closed to all automobile traffic from 6:30 a.m. for the walk, reopened shortly before noon, as planned. The annual occasion was held on Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 6.

Based on the popularity of the 2018 and 2019 events, the 2021 Annual Bridge Walk began in both St. Ignace and Mackinaw City, eliminating the need for busing and providing participants with more alternatives.

Except for 2020, when it was canceled owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, the bridge walk has been an annual event since 1958.

This year marked its 63rd walk, according to the Michigan Department of Transportation, MDOT. In recent years, between 25,000 and 30,000 individuals have taken part, MDOT said.

History of the Bridge

The dedication of the Brooklyn Bridge in 1883 encouraged supporters of the Mackinac Bridge to proceed with construction. In 1884, a St. Ignace store owner advertised a reproduction of an artist's rendering of the renowned New York building with the phrase "Proposed bridge over the Straits of Mackinac."

“We now have the greatest, well-equipped hotel of its sort in the world for a short season business,” Cornelius Vanderbilt stated at the inaugural meeting of the board of directors of the famed Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island on July 1, 1888, according to the minutes. Now we just need a bridge to span the straits.” The magnificent Firth of Forth Bridge, which spans the Firth of Forth in Scotland, was under construction at the time and finished in 1889.

There were a few far-fetched proposals for connecting Michigan's two peninsulas in the years that followed. A floating tunnel was proposed by the state transportation commissioner in 1920. Other engineers were encouraged to submit concepts for bridging the Straits. Mr. C. E. Fowler of New York City proposed an ambitious plan to solve the problem by building a series of bridges and causeways that would begin at Cheboygan, about 17 miles southeast of Mackinaw City, travel through the Bois Blanc and Round Islands, touch the southern tip of Mackinac Island, and cross the deep channel at St. Ignace.

The State Highway Department was directed by the Legislature in 1923 to create a ferry service at the Straits. The report was positive, and the cost was anticipated to be $30 million. Although some steps were taken to get the project started, it was finally abandoned.

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Photo by Rudolph Arnstein on Unsplash

Despite defeats

Despite several defeats over the years, bridge supporters redoubled their efforts. From 1936 to 1940, a new direct route was chosen, borings were performed, and extensive traffic, geology, ice, and water current investigations were undertaken. From St. Ignace south, a mole or causeway projecting 4,200 feet into the Straits was built. The prospect of a bridge became quite evident when preliminary drawings for a twin suspension span were created. However, the European Armies began to march, and bridge construction came to a standstill. The Mackinac Straits Bridge Authority was finally disbanded by the State Legislature in 1947.

Dr. David B. Steinman, a brilliant engineer, created the five-mile bridge, including approaches, and the world's longest suspension bridge between cable anchorages. The $25,735,600 contract with Merritt-Chapman & Scott Corporation to build all the foundations resulted in the deployment of the world's biggest bridge construction fleet.

The United States Steel Corporation's American Bridge Division, which was given a $44,532,900 contract to build this superstructure, began the planning and assembly process. The different forms, plates, bars, wire, and cables of steel required for the superstructure as well as the caissons and cofferdams of the foundation were prepared in U.S. Steel's mills.

Bridge construction

The bridge was officially begun amid proper ceremonies on May 7 & 8, 1954, at St. Ignace and Mackinaw City.

Despite the numerous dangers of maritime construction across the stormy Straits of Mackinac, the bridge opened to traffic on November 1, 1957, on time.

The Mackinac Bridge bonds were the final to be retired on July 1, 1986. Revenues from fares are currently used to run and repair the Bridge, as well as reimburse the State of Michigan for funds granted to the Authority since it was opened to traffic in 1957.

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