Michigan September 17, 2019
9 Things You Might Not Know About Michigan’s Iconic Mackinac Bridge
If you’re a longtime Michigander, you’ve likely crossed the marvelous Mackinac Bridge a handful of times. Whether you’re a frequent Upper Peninsula visitor or a U.P. resident who’s made your way south, there’s no denying the value and beauty of our iconic Mighty Mac. While many of us understand the structure’s basic history, here are a few facts about the Mackinac Bridge that might come as a surprise.
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1. The bridge first opened in 1957.
While it might feel as if the Mackinac Bridge has been around forever, it’s actually relatively new in the grand scheme of historic structures. Following construction kickoff in May 1954, workers spent four full summers working to perfect the massive steel bridge. Many Michiganders know that five workers lost their lives during the strenuous construction process.
2. The bridge is the 20th longest suspension span in the world.
In total, the bridge stretches for more than 26,000 feet across, which equates to more than four miles. The main spain is 3,800 feet across, rendering it the world’s 20th longest suspension span and the third-longest in the country. These impressive statistics only add to the bridge’s prowess.
3. The idea of a bridge across the Straits was first suggested in the late 1800s.
That’s right: following a rise in tourism to the area throughout the late 19th century, locals and lawmakers alike began to discuss the possibility of building a bridge between Michigan’s Lower and Upper Peninsulas. In the 1920s, with the rise of ferry travel across the Straits of Mackinac, demand for a bridge only increased. It wasn’t until the early 50s that a funding plan was approved.
4. Two vehicles have fallen from the bridge.
If you’ve ever had nightmares about plunging off the side of a bridge while trapped in your car, you might not want to read the next few sentences. Over the decades, two cars have met such a fate while crossing the Mighty Mac. One incident was deemed intentional, while the other is believed to have been influenced by a combination of excessive speed and high winds.
5. A program is available for those who are afraid to cross the bridge.
For many, fear of crossing bridges is a real and debilitating fear. While many of us feel a bit shaky during our bridge crossings, others struggle with full-blown phobias that make driving across the bridge feel like an impossible task. Luckily, those suffering with gephyrophobia are eligible to utilize the Mackinac Bridge Authority’s Drivers Assistance Program, which is available at no additional fee and allows visitors to be taken across the bridge by an experienced driver.
6. Construction costs for the bridge totaled $99.8 million.
It’s no surprise that the Mackinac Bridge cost developers a hefty chunk of change, given its length and sheer size. The total cost neared $100 million in 1957, which translates to $698 million in today’s currency. The bridge toll was initially designed to help offset this massive cost and allow for long-term maintenance and upkeep on the structure.
7. It takes seven years to paint the bridge in its entirety.
The process of painting the bridge takes a full seven years, and workers begin again immediately upon finishing one round of upkeep. In 1999, workers began the long process of stripping lead-based paint from the Mighty Mac and replacing it with safer formulas, a task that should be completed by the end of 2019. Talk about an endless undertaking!
8. An average of nearly 12,000 vehicles cross the bridge each day.
Throughout its decades of service, the Mackinac Bridge has seen millions upon millions of drivers and passengers make their way across. In fact, the bridge reached a milestone in 1998 when it marked 100 million crossings. This incredible achievement came nearly exactly 40 years after its dedication ceremony in 1958.
9. The bridge remains one of Michigan’s top tourist attractions.
It’s no secret that we Michiganders are proud of the Mackinac Bridge, but out-of-towners are just as enamored. In fact, the Straits of Mackinac and the bridge itself remain popular destinations for sightseers, bird-watchers, boaters, bikers, and history buffs alike. Whether you’re searching for a scenic spot to capture a few photographs or an ideal place to unwind along the waterfront, the Mackinac Bridge and its surroundings will quickly capture your heart.
Do you have any amazing memories associated with the Mackinac Bridge? We’re always eager to hear from you, so be sure to drop us a line with your thoughts and photos in the comment section below.
To read about another long-standing attraction in Michigan, click
here for our previous piece.