Political Winds Threaten the Mackinac Bridge on its 61st Birthday

Photo credit: Nancy May

Happy Birthday to the Mackinac Bridge!

Today marks its 61st birthday. The Mighty Mac, as it is affectionately known, opened to traffic on November 1, 1957. Perhaps no other piece of public infrastructure in Michigan evokes the same pride and sense of majesty as does the Mackinac Bridge. It draws tens of thousands of people each year from across Michigan and far beyond to stride across its five miles on the annual Labor Day Mackinac Bridge Walk on Labor Day. And perhaps at no other time in its history has the future of the bridge been so threatened by political winds.

Gov. Rick Snyder is pushing by year’s end to bind the Mackinac Bridge Authority for least 99 years to owning and overseeing not just the bridge, but also Snyder’s proposed oil tunnel under the Mackinac Straits for use by Enbridge, a private Canadian oil pipeline company with a terrible track record of oil spills and damage across Michigan. Barbara Brown, vice chair of the Mackinac Bridge Authority, is urging the public and elected officials to protect the Mackinac Bridge from Enbridge. Ms. Brown is an extremely well-informed voice, having served on the bridge authority since 2005. Public service on behalf of the bridge is part of her family’s legacy. Her grandfather Prentiss Brown (see accompanying photo) was the first chairman of the bridge authority’s board, on which he served from 1950 to 1973, including several years before and during construction of the Mighty Mac.

Courtesy Michigan Department of Transportation. November 1, 1957 (left to right) State Highway Commissioner John Mackie, bridge designer David Steinman, Governor G. Mennen Williams, Prentiss Brown, former governor Murray Van Wagoner, Sault Ste. Marie businessman George Osborn, William Cochran and Lawrence Rubin.

Photo credit: Nancy May

A few facts about the Mackinac Bridge
(from the Mackinac Bridge Authority):

  • The Mackinac Bridge is 5 miles long (26,372 ft)
  • The main towers stand 552 ft above the water
  • The towers reach 210 ft below the water
  • There are 42,000 miles of wire in the cables
  • The bridge weighs 1,024,500 Tons
  • It took 85,000 blueprints to fully design the bridge
  • Construction began: May 7, 1954
  • The Mackinac Bridge was open to traffic: November 1, 1957


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