July 24, 2014
A calm night on the Straits of Mackinac, and Michigan’s signature bridge was looking fine!
I’ve posted a ton about the Mighty Mackinac Bridge here on Michigan in Pictures, but had never seen this excellent summary of how it came to be courtesy the Michigan Dept. of Transportation’s page on I-75 and the Straits of Mackinac:
The five-mile stretch of water separating Michigan’s two peninsulas, the result of glacial action some twelve thousand years ago, has long served as a major barrier to the movement of people and goods. The three railroads that reached the Straits of Mackinac in the early 1880s, the Michigan Central and the Grand Rapids & Indiana Railway from the south, and the Detroit, Mackinac and Marquette from the north, jointly established the Mackinac Transportation Company in 1881 to operate a railroad car ferry service across the straits. The railroads and their shipping lines developed Mackinac Island into a major vacation destination in the 1880s.
Improved highways along the eastern shores of Michigan’s lower peninsula brought increased automobile traffic to the straits region starting in the 1910s. The state of Michigan initiated an automobile ferry service between St. Ignace and Mackinaw City in 1923 and eventually operated eight ferry boats. In peak travel periods, particularly during deer season, five mile backups and delays of four hours or longer became common at the state docks at Mackinaw City and St. Ignace.
With increased public pressure to break this bottleneck, the Michigan legislature established a Mackinac Straits Bridge Authority in 1934, with the power to issue bonds for bridge construction. The bridge authority supported a proposal first developed in 1921 by Charles Evan Fowler, the bridge engineer who had previously promoted a Detroit-Windsor bridge. Fowler’s plans called for an island-hopping route from the city of Cheboygan to Bois Blanc, Round, and Mackinac islands, thence to St. Ignace, along a twenty-four-mile route. The Public Works Administration flatly rejected a request for loans and grants to implement this project.
A plan was then drawn up for a direct crossing from Mackinaw City to St. Ignace, but they were again denied funds. In 1940, a plan was submitted for a suspension bridge with a main span of 4600 feet. This design was a larger version of the ill-fated Tacoma Narrows Bridge in Washington State, a structure destroyed by high winds on November 7, 1940. Although the disaster delayed any further action, the activities of 1938-1940 nevertheless produced some important results. The bridge authority conducted a series of soundings and borings across the straits and built a causeway extending out 4200 feet from the St. Ignace shore. The Second World War ended any additional work, and the Legislature abolished the bridge authority in 1947.
William Stewart Woodfill, president of the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, almost singlehandedly resuscitated the dream of a bridge across the Straits of Mackinac. Woodfill formed the statewide Mackinac Bridge Citizens Committee in 1949 to lobby for a new bridge authority, which the legislature created in 1950. A panel of three prominent engineers conducted a feasibility study and made recommendations to the bridge authority on the location, structure, and design of the bridge.
The State Highway Department, which had just placed a $4.5 million ferryboat, Vacationland, into service at the straits in January 1952, remained hostile to the bridge plan. In April 1952, the Michigan legislature authorized the bridge authority to issue bonds for the project, choose an engineer, and proceed with construction. The authority selected David B. Steinman as the chief engineer in January 1953 and tried unsuccessfully to sell the bridge bonds in April 1953, but by the end of the year, the authority had sold the $99.8 million in revenue bonds needed to begin construction.
June 3, 2014
If you’ve been following Michigan in Pictures for any length of time, you’re probably familiar with the work of John McCormick aka Michigan Nut.
John has just released his 2015 Michigan Wild & Scenic Wall Calendar, and you can get it for just $15. As an added bonus, if you head over to like his post about it on Facebook, you have a chance to win a free one!
The photo above of the Mackinac Bridge is not only the cover of the calendar, it’s also the photo for June. View (and purchase) John’s photo bigger at MichiganNutPhotography.com, see more in his Michigan Bridges Gallery and definitely follow Michigan Nut Photography on Facebook for a regular dose of photographic awesome from the Great Lakes State!
There’s lots more from John on Michigan in Pictures too!!
May 22, 2014
February 4, 2014
Wikipedia explains that the The Tridge is a three-way wooden footbridge spanning the junction of the Chippewa and Tittabawassee Rivers near downtown Midland that opened in 1981. It consists of one 31′ tall central pillar supporting three 180′ long by 8′ wide spokes. This apparently globally unique structure was built by Gerace Construction of Midland who add:
The walkways are eight feet, three inches wide, and the triangular observation area in the center measures 35 feet per side. The wooden decking and beams filled six train cars. Although the majority of the Tridge is wood, there are 20 tons of steel in the structure in the form of bolts and connectors. A cofferdam – an enclosed circular cell formed from steel sheet piling – was driven into the river bed and then pumped dry to keep water out while the central concrete pier was built. A causeway – essentially a road in the middle of the river – was built from concrete rubble to allow a crane to approach the center construction area.
The Kuriositas has a nice aerial view of the Tridge too!
December 10, 2013
Marty shared this photo and also some information about the CR510 Pennsylvania Truss Bridge in Marquette County from historicbridges.org:
This is one of the largest, most beautiful, and most significant truss spans in Michigan. Not only does this truss bridge display the Pennsylvania truss configuration, it appears that it may have actually come from the state of Pennsylvania. In 1919, the Michigan State Highway Department purchased the bridge which originally crossed the Allegheny River. Relocating and reusing truss bridges was not unusual in this period of history. An example notice indicating bridges for sale from 1921 is shown to the right. At this time, CR-510 was a state trunk line route and purchasing and relocating this bridge would have been an inexpensive alternative to building a new bridge from scratch. It was erected on the CR-510 location in 1921. The Michigan State Highway Department’s Biennial Report stated that the bridge was one of two toll bridges crossing the Allegheny River within 500 feet of each other and was being removed due to the redundancy. Unfortunately, the report did not state exactly where on the river this bridge came from. Since most of the Allegheny River is in Pennsylvania, it is assumed the bridge came from Pennsylvania, although the Allegheny River does dip into New York State for a short time. Depending on where on the Allegheny River it was originally located, it may have been part of a multi-span bridge.
Pennsylvania truss bridges are an uncommon truss type, and the nature of their design means that they are reserved for longer truss spans. However, even among pin-connected highway Pennsylvania truss spans, this bridge’s span still stands out as fairly long. It is the longest pin-connected highway truss span in Michigan. The truss type is extremely rare in Michigan, and so the bridge has additional significance in the context of Michigan. The bridge also retains excellent historic integrity with minimal alterations despite its long service and being located in two different states over its service life. The bridge has decorative details on its portal bracing, another feature that is rare among Michigan truss bridges.
Read on for more.
More bridges on Michigan in Pictures.
October 26, 2013
An Absolute Michigan feature via Michigan History Magazine on the opening of the Mackinac Bridge on November 1, 1957 says (in part):
With the bridge ready for traffic, but fearing inclement autumn weather at the Straits, officials decided to have an official “opening” on November 1, 1957, but an official “dedication” in late June of the following year.
Amazingly, the weather on the first day of November (preceded by two days of rain and fog) was sunny and pleasant. However, the weather in late June was so cold and wet (with six-foot waves on the Straits) that some of the events were shortened or canceled altogether. According to one observer, it “was a bleak, gray day, more like March than June, and the only parader who looked happy was a snow queen from Cadillac, who rode on an ice throne float, throwing snowballs made of popcorn.”
…On November 1, after paying the $3.25 toll (taken symbolically by former U.S. Senator Prentiss Brown, who chaired the Mackinac Bridge Authority), Governor G. Mennen Williams crossed the bridge (driven in a car by Mrs. Williams because the governor had forgotten his driver’s license). Then, according to United Press International correspondent Thomas Farrell, cars lined up for one mile on both sides of the Straits “swarmed” on to a bridge whose size “staggers the imagination.”
In his opening day remarks, Governor Williams predicted that the bridge would add $100 million annually to the state’s tourist trade. He continued, “Michigan at last is to be one state, geographically, economically and culturally, as well as politically.”
I think we can probably agree that it’s had a tremendous impact on Michigan! About this photo with a unique view of the festivities, Dave writes:
A friend found this large format color slide earlier this year and I scanned it at high resolution. It shows Governor G. Mennen “Soapy” Williams at the tollbooths on the St. Ignace end of the Mackinac Bridge on the day it opened, November 1, 1957. I have seen many photos of this day, but never one quite like this.
September 12, 2013
The annual Labor Day Bridge walk across the Mackinac Bridge takes place this Monday (September 2, 2013). UpNorthLive reports that you can turn your Labor Day bridge walk into a one of a kind experience with a trip to the top of the Mighty Mac!
More than 40,000 people are expected to participate in the 56th Annual Labor Day Bridge Walk which will take on Monday, Sept. 2.
For the second year in a row, the Michigan Department of Transportation and the Mackinac Bridge Authority are asking the public to share their Labor Day Mackinac Bridge Walk experiences on social media with photos and videos. One person sharing their memories will be chosen at random to receive a once-in-a-lifetime tour to the top of the Mackinac Bridge.
Through Monday, Sept. 9, you can post your memories of walking the bridge, either this year or in a previous year, on Instagram and Twitter using the hashtag #MightyMacWalk13. Memories can include photos or videos.
A lucky person whose entry is chosen at random by computer will receive a tour for two to the top of the bridge, courtesy of the MBA. The person who travels the furthest to walk the bridge this year and post a memory will win a Pure Michigan gift pack, courtesy of the Michigan Economic Development Corp.
Read on for more and check out the pics on Twitter and Instagram. Get all the details on the annual Mackinac Bridge Walk from the Mackinac Bridge Authority. If you want to see what it looks like from the top, check out my friend Spike’s Mackinac Bridge slideshow!
Much more on the Mackinac Bridge at Michigan in Pictures!
August 20, 2013
July 23, 2013
The Traverse City Record-Eagle reports that Cathy Nagler will be attempting to swim across the Straits of Mackinac tomorrow (Wednesday, July 24):
Worry isn’t a word Nagler uses to talk about the upcoming distance swim, which is expected to take place Wednesday between Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas, on the west side of the mighty Mackinac Bridge. But she does have legitimate concerns, chiefly hypothermia from the cold water.
“That’s the hard one,” she said. “I went in Lake Michigan on June 12 and the water temperature was 58 degrees.”
Nagler will wear a lightweight wetsuit, of the sort tri-athletes wear, to combat that problem. Combined with dive boots, it should keep her warm enough.
“The heavier wetsuits, like water skiers wear, make me too buoyant in the water,” she said.
Nagler, who summered at her family’s cabin in Northport as a child, has been a life-long swimmer. She has several distance swims to her credit, both in the United States and England. But her goal to swim across Lake Michigan has the most meaning for her.
I thought I would try and figure out how many people have swum the 4.1 mile distance across the Straits of Mackinac, but it appears that the answer is “a lot.” This feature in the St. Ignace News about a group of 5 who swam the Straits in 2011 has some great information about swimming the Straits, and notes that the Coast Guard receives about 10 special marine requests specifically for swimming the Straits.