The Sixth Street Bridge, with its long 544 foot length excellent physical condition, is a fitting tribute to its builder, the Massillon Bridge Company of Massillon Ohio. Constructed in 1886, this bridge is made of wrought iron. This bridge is one of the most important historic bridges in the entire state of Michigan, since it is the longest pin-connected highway truss in the state. Also, Michigan only has a few truss bridges that are more than one span in length, and most of those are two spans. A four span bridge in Michigan is thus extremely rare for its unusually long length, for Michigan. The bridge is also significant for the length of its individual spans. The bridge has three spans that are 154 feet in length. This is a very long span length for a pin-connected Pratt truss, and is among the longest in Michigan.
…Construction of the bridge began in 1885, when the piers and abutments were constructed. These, with approaches, cost $11,084.95. The wrought iron truss superstructure was erected in 1886 by the Massillon Bridge Company of Massillon, Ohio, costing $20,281. This made the total cost of the bridge $31,365.95.
“There is a pipeline that‘s sitting at the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac. It was designed for a 50 year life and it’s been down there for 63 years. There’s a risk involved in this.” -Mark Shriberg, National Wildlife Federation
Up to 152 miles (245 km) of coastline in lakes Huron and Michigan could be fouled by a single oil spill at the straits, according to the simulations. When all 840 simulated spills are plotted on a map, a total of 720 miles (1,162 km) of shoreline in the U.S. and Canada are considered potentially vulnerable to spills that would require cleanup. Seven hundred twenty miles is roughly the distance from Detroit to Atlanta.
Areas at highest risk include Mackinac and Bois Blanc islands, as well as locations directly east and west of Mackinaw City. Communities also at risk include Beaver Island, Cross Village, Harbor Springs, Cheboygan and other places along the lakes Huron-Michigan shoreline.
…”Until now, no one knew exactly how much shoreline was vulnerable to spills in the Straits of Mackinac,” said Schwab, a research scientist at the U-M Water Center. “These findings show that under the right conditions, a spill in the Straits of Mackinac could affect a significant amount of shoreline and open-water areas in either Lake Michigan or Lake Huron, or both, very quickly.”
In 1897, the Mineral Range Railroad Company built a new iron swing type bridge, replacing the old wooden bridge. This bridge also featured a two lane roadway, with a railroad crossing underneath. New reconstructed support cribs were also sunk. But on August 15, 1905, disaster struck, when the steamer Northern Wave (Mutual Transit Lines), en route to the Quincy Smelter to pick up copper ingots, smashed into the center section, destroying much of it. The mishap was apparently caused by a mixup in signals.
The bridge would be replaced one year later, again with an iron bridge, and center swing section, and a control house above the roadway, over the center turnstile. This new bridge would have 118 ft. of clearance on the north maritime passage, and 108 ft. on the south side passage. (Newspaper accounts of the period, gave maritime traffic at 6,000 bridge openings per year, and up to 40 daily train crossings per day, both of which began to taper off by 1920). Although almost struck again in 1940 by the Steamer Maritana (Hutchenson Lines), it narrowly avoided the collision by dropping its anchors which caught the submarine telephone cables, stopping it just short of the bridge. (This would happen again 20 years later). Light signaling was added during WWII, to augment the steam whistles already in use. The bridge served the communities until 1960.
In the late 1950s, the Michigan Department of Transportation began studies on how best to replace the aging bridge, with a more modern one, that would accommodate the now much larger ships plying the waterway. It was decided to build what would be become the worlds heaviest aerial lift bridge, which was under construction by 1959, just to the West of the then current bridge. This new bridge, with 4 traffic lanes above, and a railroad crossing below, had its ribbon cutting on Saturday, June 25, 1960. But it almost didn’t happen. During the night before, the Steamer J.F. Schoelkoff (American Steamship Company), traveling westward, signaled for the bridge to open, but the signals were not acted on. Dropping all their anchors, they snagged the submarine telephone cables in an eerie repeat of 20 years previously. Onlookers for the ribbon cutting ceremonies were treated to the spectacle of a large freighter jammed crossways in the waterway, just a quarter mile from the Bridge. Area phone service was disrupted for nearly three days. Telephone service to the bridge, and marine radios were installed shortly. That incident not withstanding, the new Portage Lake Lift Bridge continues to well serve the area, as the possibility of adding yet another new bridge may be explored.
Fun fact of the day: I have a mild fear of heights! While it’s not crippling enough to stop me from being able to drive over the Mighty Mac, I can definitely see where some people aren’t able to do that. For all of you, here’s a story (with a good video) about a little known service: The Mackinac Bridge Authority will drive you across!
The Mackinac Bridge Authority has a “Driver’s Assistance Program” that provides drivers for those uncomfortable with driving across the Mackinac Bridge. If you are traveling northbound, there is a phone at the south end of the bridge. Instructions for using the phone are posted in the phone box. If you are southbound, just ask a fare collector for assistance. There is no additional fee for this service.
The phone is located on the shoulder of I-75 just north of the Jamet Street exit to Mackinaw City (near Audies Restaurant). You do not need to exit the freeway. Just past the exit, you can pull over to the right and park on the shoulder. The phone box is located on the right-of-way fencing. The box is green and easily spotted. If this is still unclear, please call us at 906-643-7600.
The website Michigan History was produced by someone at MSU. While I have no idea who or why they gave up on what was shaping up to be a cool website, the history checks out. The page on Port Huron’s Blue Water Bridge says:
Perhaps Port Huron’s greatest claim to fame is the Blue Water Bridge, a historic arcing bridge that serves as a means of transportation between Canada and the United States. The bridge is located over the St. Clair River, and connects Port Huron, Michigan, to Sarnia, Ontario. In 2013 the Blue Water Bridge celebrated its 75th anniversary, and a closer look at its history show why Port Huron residents take pride in the structure.
The original Blue Water Bridge was constructed in 1938, and was built by the American Bridge Company of New York, and the Hamilton Bridge Company of Ontario. The original bridge is an arch cantilever bridge, which was designed to not only support large amounts of traffic, but also to have an aesthetic arching look. In the late 1980s the border crossing became so popular that plans for a new bridge were brought up. However, instead of demolishing the old bridge, a new one was built in 1997 beside the old bridge, to support eastbound traffic.
The Michigan cost for building the new bridge, and renovating the old one was $62.6 million dollars. (Michigan Department of Transportation) The project was considered an enormous success and won awards from the American Society of Civil Engineers, the Ontario Institution of Steel Construction, and the Federal Highway Administration. For Port Huron residents the bridge signifies the close connection with Canada, and the willingness of the two sides to work closely together.
There’s more Michigan bridges on Michigan in Pictures, and since you’ve read this far, Boatnerd’s page on the Saginaw has everything you’ll want to know about the self-unloading bulk carrier that was launched May 9th, 1953 as the John J. Boland. It’s one of three near sister vessels built by this shipyard: The John G. Munson which is still plying the lakes and the Detroit Edison that suffered a career-ending grounding in Lake Michigan in December of 1980.