Thousands of drivers who usually cross the Mackinac Bridge during the annual bridge walk on Labor Day won’t be able to this year, according to a news release from the bridge authority.
The Mackinac Bridge Authority and the Michigan Department of Transportation plan to close the bridge to all traffic from 6:30 a.m. to noon on Labor Day for the bridge walk. The agencies are asking motorists to plan alternate routes of travel during those times.
Unlike previous years, only shuttle buses used to transport walkers to the starting point for the walk and emergency services vehicles will be allowed on the bridge during the event. All other vehicle traffic will be stopped while event participants are on the bridge. The Authority made the decision during a special board meeting May 16, citing safety and security recommendations by the Michigan State Police and U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
The Mackinac Bridge carries Interstate 75 across the Straits of Mackinac between Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas, connecting Mackinaw City to St. Ignace. St. Ignace is also the home of the Richard Crane Memorial Truck Show, which takes place Sept. 15-17.
Typically, about 9,500 vehicles cross the bridge the morning of Labor Day, and MBA staff believe at least half of those are vehicles shuttling friends and family across the bridge to participate in the walk. Participants this year will need to use the official shuttle buses, and the MBA and other agencies are trying to reach the remaining travelers in time for them to modify their travel plans, the release states.
Updates have been posted to the Mackinac Bridge Authority website, MDOT’s website, and Mi Drive, MDOT’s travel information site. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources will also send e-mails regarding the closure to state park campground reservation holders, and the MBA will send updates to people who have signed up for e-mail alerts. Other state agencies are posting updates on their Facebook and Twitter accounts.
“Our goal is to reach as many of our customers as possible before the annual bridge walk, and we’re grateful to the state departments for their assistance,” MBA Executive Secretary Bob Sweeney said in the release. “For anyone we can’t reach, we’re planning to help minimize the inconvenience of the closure.”
Portable bathrooms will be placed along US-2 for several miles west of the bridge, water and snack stations will be located on U.S. Highway 2 and I-75 north and south of the bridge, and two MBA mechanics will patrol on both sides of the bridge to assist motorists with vehicle problems. MSP will have additional troopers in the area during the bridge walk to regulate traffic, and MDOT is providing traffic control equipment.
Every year, from 30,000 to 60,000 people come to the Mackinac Bridge for the annual bridge walk, which has taken place since 1958, the year after the bridge opened to traffic. The event will begin at 6:40 a.m. with the start of the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness Jog, followed by a greeting from Gov. Rick Snyder as walkers begin across the bridge at 7 a.m.