If your Labour Day weekend travel plans involve crossing the Mackinac Bridge, you may need to adjust your timetable. Following recommendations from both the Michigan State Police (MSP) and U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Mackinac Bridge Authority (MBA) announced earlier this year that it will close the bridge to all motor vehicles during its annual Bridge Walk on Labour Day from 6:30 a.m. to noon. Only emergency vehicles and buses used to transport walk participants will be permitted on the bridge during the event.
Safety and security were cited as deciding factors for the closure.
“While there are no known threats to this annual tradition, recent terrorist-related attacks carried out around the globe serve as a reminder to remain alert and vigilant,” stated Col. Kriste Kibbey Etue, director of MSP and state director of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, in a May 2017 media release. “Since 9/11, Michigan has made great strides enhancing the state’s homeland security framework to protect critical infrastructure, key resources and our residents.”
“This was not a decision the Mackinac Bridge Authority makes lightly. We understand this change will be an inconvenience to our customers traveling Labour Day morning,” said MBA Chairman William Gnodtke. “Our board felt this choice strikes the best balance of keeping this 60-year tradition going for the tens of thousands of visitors who walk the bridge each year and keeping them safe.”
This is the first time the event’s 60-year history that the Mackinac Bridge will be closed to all traffic during the walk. An average of 9,500 vehicles cross the bridge the morning of Labour Day. The MBA estimates that approximately half of those are transporting participants to the designated event starting point. This year, participants will be required to utilize the provided official Bridge Walk shuttle buses.
Recognizing the potential for traffic backups on both sides of the Mackinac Bridge, primarily on US-2 and I-75, MBA staff plan to secure additional portable toilets to place at intervals along those routes for motorists. They also are developing plans for refreshment stations, and plan to have two MBA mechanics patrol the routes to assist with any breakdowns. Michigan State Police (MSP) will have additional troopers in the area during the bridge walk to regulate traffic, and MDOT is providing traffic control equipment.
The 2017 Mackinac Bridge Walk will begin at 6:40 a.m. with the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness Jog, followed by a greeting from Governor Rick Snyder at 6:55 a.m. Walkers will begin acrossing the bridge at 7 a.m.
No walkers will be permitted to begin the walk after 10 a.m., as it takes roughly one-and-a-half hours to complete the crossing. Buses will begin picking up any remaining walkers on the bridge at 11:30 a.m. to ensure the bridge is clear and can reopen to traffic promptly at noon.
Official buses will again shuttle participants between Mackinaw City and St. Ignace for the start of the walk, and then back to St. Ignace if needed, starting at 4:30 a.m. The MBA is working to secure additional buses to make sure all participants can get to the starting area prior to 10 a.m.
Northbound I-75 traffic will be stopped at Exit 337 on the south end of the bridge; southbound US-2 and I-75 traffic will be stopped at Exit 344 on the north side.
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