1957 : Mackinac Bridge Opens to Traffic

November 1, 2020 all-day

G. Mennon Williams, Michigan’s governor at the time, was the first paying customer to cross the Mackinac Bridge on this day in 1957. By connecting the two peninsulas, the new bridge put an end to huge backups caused every hunting season by hunters waiting for boat ferries, as well as all talk about the Upper Peninsula becoming a separate state or becoming part of Wisconsin.

Mackinac Bridge

In honor of its anniversary, here are 60 facts that you may or may not know about about the bridge, many courtesy of the Mackinac Bridge Authority.

1. The Mackinac Bridge is the fifth-longest suspension bridge in the world.

2. Its main span is the 19th longest in the world.

3. The bridge opened to traffic on Nov. 1, 1957.

4. Its total length is 5 miles, or 26,372 feet.

5. The main towers are 552 feet above water.

6. The roadway is 199 feet above water at midspan.

7. There are 42,000 miles of wire in the main cables.

8. The cables weigh 11,840 tons.

9. The total bridge weight is 1,024,500 tons.

10. That weight includes 931,000 tons of concrete.

11. it has 4,851,700 steel rivets.

12. And 1,016,600 steel bolts.

13. Four thousand engineer drawings were done for the bridge.

14. There were 85,000 blueprints.

15. 3,500 workers were employed at the bridge site.

16. 7,500 workers were employed at quarries, shops, mills, etc.

17. 305 engineers were employed

19. At the time, it was the largest bridge construction fleet ever assembled.

20. Construction began on May 7, 1954.

21. The 50 millionth crossing took place Sept. 25, 1984.

22. The 100 millionth crossing took place June 25, 1998.

23. D.B. Steinman was selected as its engineer in January 1953.

24. Five men lost their lives during construction.

25. One man died in a diving accident.

26. One man fell in a caisson while welding.

27. One man fell in in the water and drowned.

28. Two men fell from a temporary catwalk near the top of the north tower.

29. On Aug. 7, 1997, a bridge painter, fell from his painting platform and drowned in the Straits of Mackinac.

30. The length of the man span is 3,800 feet.

31. The width of the bridge’s roadway is 54 feet.

32. The outside lanes are 12 feet wide.

33. The inside lanes are 11 feet wide.

34. The center mall is 2 feet wide.

35. The catwalk, curb and rail width is 3 feet on each side.

36. Suspension bridges are designed to move to accommodate wind, change in temperature and weight. The deck at center span could move as much as 35 feet (east or west) due to high winds.

37. The bridge can support 38,486 tons.

38. It’s still the longest suspension bridge in the western hemisphere.

39. It cost $99.8 million to construct.

40. It costs $2 per axle or $4 per passenger vehicle to cross the bridge. This includes passenger cars, vans, motorcycles, station wagons, SUVs, pick-up trucks and school buses.

41. Vehicles not meeting the passenger vehicle characteristics must pay $5 per axle. This includes tractor trailers, buses, motor homes and step or cube vans.

42. You can buy a pre-paid toll account called a Mac Pass.

43. If you don’t feel comfortable driving across the bridge, there’s a Drivers Assistance Program that provides someone who will drive for you. It’s free and available 24 hours a day, seven days week.

44. There’s also transportation services for pedestrians, bicyclists, snowmobiles and ATVs.

45. The Mackinac Bridge Walk has been held since 1958.

46. The first toll paying vehicle to cross the bridge was a 1950s Chevrolet station wagon.

47. The bridge was featured on an episode of “Modern Marvels” in 2003.

48. It was also featured on an episode of “Dirty Jobs.”

49. A $6.3-million, 21-month bridge paint job began in April 2017.

50. The towers will be covered in zinc-based paint as part of the work.

51. It will be the first time the towers are stripped to bare metal and repainted since the bridge was built.

52. Lead paint will be carefully removed, contained and shipped during the project.

53. More than four million vehicles crossed the bridge in 2016.

54. July was the most popular crossing month in 2016, when 604,165 crossings occurred.

55. The bridge was listed number 64 among the top 100 U.S. travel destinations to appear on Instagram, according to a 2017 ranking by the European travel website TravelBird.

56. In 2017, Michigan residents were able to buy 60-year-old grated metal pieces of the original Mackinac Bridge from an online auction as those sections of the bridge were cut away and replaced.

57. Falling ice from cables and towers, blowing snow and high winds have forced temporary closures of the bridge.

58. An ad agency picked the colors for the bridge. The company, which was working for a client who was supplying engines and equipment used to build the bridge, featured the bridge in an advertisement, according to the St. Ignace News. At the time, colors hadn’t been selected for the bridge, so the company chose ivory for the towers and foliage green trusses. Bridge Authority members and engineers saw the advertisement and liked it, so they kept the color scheme.

59. The bridge is featured on Michigan license plate designs.

60. Maintenance of the massive bridge is paid for entirely by tolls and fees.

 sky, cloud and outdoor

Sources :

Tanya Wildt, “Happy 60th birthday, Mackinac Bridge: 60 facts about the bridge“, Detroit Free Press, November 1, 2017.

Pat Zacharias, “The breathtaking Mackinac Bridge”, Detroit News, June 6, 2000.

Michigan Every Day.

Featured video above : Lowell Thomas, Mackinac Bridge, Michigan: “The Five Mile Dream” 1958 video b US Steel. 10min

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