60 Facts and Figures About the Mackinac Bridge

60 Facts and Figures About the Mackinac Bridge

The Mackinac Bridge opened on November 1st 1957. This important Michigan landmark bridged two peninsulas and made travel between the two large areas quicker and more practical. Prior to the building of the Mackinac Bridge, people wanting to go from one peninsula to the other had to take a car ferry. As demand picked up for this service, the wait time became incredibly long for taking the car ferry. The creation of the Mackinac Bridge has been an important piece of Michigan history and completely changed the tourism industry of the state.

To celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Mackinac Bridge, we dug deep through archives and records to find 60 facts and figures about the Mackinac Bridge. If you have any to add, be sure to share in the comments below. Old photos that can be used with permission could be featured in a future article. If you have old photos of the Mackinac Bridge or the car ferries, we’d love for you to reach out by emailing us (travelthemitten@gmail.com). Without further ado, here are the 60 facts and figures that we found.

The Mackinac Bridge Connects the Two Peninsulas of Michigan

The Mackinac Bridge Connects the Two Peninsulas of Michigan

The Mackinac Bridge opened to cars on November 1st, 1957.

Construction for the Mackinac Bridge began May 7th, 1954.

A dedication festival for the Mackinac Bridge was held in June of 1958. This four day event included fireworks, a ribbon cutting ceremony, and a parade. The parade features floats crossing the Mackinac Bridge. More than 100 Oldsmobile convertibles crossed the bridge, including those carrying queens that represented each of the 83 Michigan counties.

The first passenger car to cross the Mackinac Bridge was owned by Albert Carter. The 1951 Chevrolet Styleline Deluxe (dark green) went on to collect more than 300,000 miles on it. This same car recorded many firsts, including being the first to do a round trip on I-94 between Chicago and Detroit, and the first car to cross several roads in Chicago. Carter’s car drove in 49 of the 50 states. In 1970, Carter received permission from then Governor William Milliken and the United States Coast Guard to bury the car under the Mackinac Bridge. That plan was later rejected by environmental groups. The car has been a regular feature at the Grand Rapids Public Museum over the years and also undergone several restoration efforts. Along with the car that recorded many firsts, Albert Carter was also the first passenger through the St. Lawrence Seaway, the first visitor of the St. Louis Gateway Arch, and the first general public visitor to the top of the Sears Tower in Chicago. Carter’s tombstone is said to lists all the firsts he accomplished in his life.

Mackinac Bridge Shepler's Cruise

At the time it was built, the Mackinac Bridge was the longest suspension in the world. The bridge, which spans 26,372 feet has a suspension length of 8,614 feet.

In 1998, the Mackinac Bridge lost its long held record as the longest suspension bridge. The Akashi Kaikyo Bridge in Japan and Great Belt Bridge in Denmark both passed the Mackinac Bridge with suspension lengths of 12,826 feet and 8,921 feet respectively. The Mackinac Bridge remains the longest suspension bridge in the Western Hemisphere.

In 1954, $99.8 million in bonds were sold to help fund the construction of the Mackinac Bridge. The Bridge Authority received $96,400,033.33 in proceeds from the bonds.

The cost to design the Mackinac Bridge was $3.5 million.

Construction costs for the Mackinac Bridge were $70,268,500.

Mackinac Bridge Sheplers Ferry Tour

The two major companies that helped build the Mackinac Bridge were American Bridge and Merritt-Chapman and Scott. American Bridge was paid $44,532,900 for the superstructure. Merritt-Chapman and Scott was paid $25,735,600 for the foundation.

On July 1, 1986, the last of the bonds from the original sale were retired. Toll fares collected now go towards operating and the maintenance of the Mackinac Bridge.

One of the earliest plans for a bridge to connect the two peninsulas of Michigan had a bridge going from Cheboygan to Bois Blanc Island to Round Island to Mackinac Island to St. Ignace.

Mackinac Bridge Long

David Steinman was selected as the engineer for the Mackinac Bridge. Steinman is one of the most recognized names in bridges. His work can be seen in the U.S., Thailand, England, Portugal, Italy, Brazil Haiti, Puerto Rico, Canada, Korea, Iraq, and Pakistan. Steinman was also in charge of the rehabilitation of the Brooklyn Bridge.

In 1934, the Mackinac Straits Bridge Authority was created by the Michigan Legislature to explore funding and construction methods for a bridge. This group was abolished in 1947.

In 1950, the Mackinac Bridge Authority was created and was tasked with helping to fund, design, and oversee the building of the Mackinac Bridge.

Mackinac Bridge Panoramic 2

Each night, the Mackinac Bridge is lit up.

At mid-span, the Mackinac Bridge is around 200 feet above water.

The Mackinac Bridge has a vertical clearance of 155 feet.

During the winter months, the Mackinac Bridge Authority uses sand instead of salt to help with winter driving. The threat of corroding the bridge and the salt getting into the Great Lakes are the main reasons for using sand instead.

In Mackinaw City, the Mama Mia’s pizza restaurant houses the Mackinac Bridge Museum. The restaurant was founded by J.C. Stillwell, who was an iron worked that helped build the Mackinac Bridge. In 2005, a fire destroyed the building and several of the artifacts in the museum. In 2007, a new building was built and now houses Mama Mia’s and the new version of the Mackinac Bridge Museum. This free museum features artifacts from the bridge, including many donated by those who worked on the family and their loved ones.

Mackinac Bridge Audies

Audie’s, a popular restaurant in Mackinaw City (314 Nicolet St.), also features artifacts from the Mackinac Bridge. While dining in this restaurant, guests can see artifacts on the walls above them and also see old photographs from the construction of the Mackinac Bridge. Great tasting food (trust us, you’ll love it) and seeing artifacts from the creation of this Michigan landmark make a great combination while visiting Mackinaw City.

Wind is the major factor that leads to vehicles requiring escorts across the Mackinac Bridge. Wind between 20 to 35 miles per hour typically requires vehicles to slow down their speeds when crossing the bridge. Wind over 35 miles per hour leads to an escort requirement for high-profile vehicles. When wind hits over 50 miles per hour, most times high-profile vehicles are not allowed to cross. In the less frequent instance of wind travelling more than 65 miles per hour leads to no traffic being allowed on the bridge. Winter conditions and events like falling ice can also lead to slower speed restrictions and temporary shutdowns of the bridge.

Mackinac Bridge Snow

The Mackinac Bridge was featured on the History Channel show called “Modern Marvels”. The bridge appeared on an episode airing March 5, 2003. This episode from Season 9 of the show featured interviews with iron workers that helped build the bridge, including J.C. Stillwell (owner of Mama Mia’s Pizza).

In 2007, the Mackinac Bridge was featured on an episode of Dirty Jobs, the show on Discovery Channel hosted by Mike Rowe. The episode called “Bridge Maintainer” was an hour long and showed Rowe experiencing various aspects of the maintenance crew of the Mackinac Bridge.

In August of every year, a drawing is held to randomly select 25 non-profit organizations that receive Tower Tour certificates to raffle or auction off. Each Tower Tour certificate is good for two people to climb to the top of the Mackinac Bridge the following year (May 1 to October 15). This is one of the only ways to be able to experience the thrill and views from the top of the Mackinac Bridge.

The Mackinac Bridge is part of Interstate 75. This national highway is the second longest North-South interstate highway in the U.S. and seventh longest interstate highway in the U.S. The highway passes through six states (Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, Michigan) and spans 1,786.47 miles. I-75 runs from Miami to Sault Ste. Marie. The popular road runs for 396 miles in Michigan.

Mackinac Bridge Driving

Painting the Mackinac Bridge is a three year process. When the work is complete, a new painting cycle begins again.

The speed limit on the Mackinac Bridge is 45 miles per hour.

Semi-trucks are required to drive in the right lane with their four-way flashers on. Maximum speed for semi-trucks is 20 miles per hour.

Mackinac Bridge Underneath

With its unique suspension bridge design, the Mackinac Bridge can move as much as 35 feet due to high winds. The bridge does not swing, but instead moves slowly in one direction based on wind.

Occasionally, steel pieces from the Mackinac Bridge will come up for sale by auction. Some of these pieces have been turned into unique memorabilia or tables at local restaurants.

The Mackinac Bridge can support a total of 38,486 tons at one time. The bridge can support one ton per lineal foot of roadway.

Mackinac Bridge Mackinac Island

In 1968, the Greek freighter Castalia struck the north pier of the Mackinac Bridge in dense fog. The bridge was left with just a small gouge and minimal damage. The ship leaked, but was eventually cleared to continue traveling to Chicago.

On April 24, 1959, one of the most talked about legends of the Mackinac Bridge happened. Captain John Lappo flew a Boeing B-47 bomber under the Mackinac Bridge. Lappo was born in Muskegon and became a decorated war hero from the Korean War and Vietnam War. Lappo famously said “I’m taking her under” to his small crew. The incident would later be reported and cost Lappo his wings.

The main towers of the Mackinac Bridge are roughly 552 feet above water.

The Mackinac Bridge is part of the North Country National Scenic Trail. This popular hiking trail spans across seven states and is the longest of the National Scenic Trails. People can only hike this Michigan portion of the trail on Labor Day, when the Mackinac Bridge is open to pedestrian traffic.

The Mackinac Bridge offers a free driver’s assistance program for those who are not comfortable driving across the bridge. A condition known as gephyrophobia is an anxiety disorder known as the fear of bridges.

Father Marquette Memorial Mackinac Bridge View

The Mackinac Bridge has been the location for an attempt at a Guinness World Record involving Mini Coopers several times. In 2017, 1,328 Mini Coopers crossed the Mackinac Bridge in parade like fashion. This was an improvement of nine vehicles from the last attempt on the Mackinac Bridge (2015), but fell short of the 2009 record held in London of 1,450 Mini Coopers.

Each year, the Mackinac Bridge hosts the Jeep the Mac event. In 2017, 679 registered Jeeps took part in this annual event. The event will run again in 2018, with events planned for April 20th through the 22nd.

People have two chances to run across the Mackinac Bridge throughout the year. This includes the Fall Colors run, which celebrated its ninth year on October 7, 2017, and the Mackinaw Memorial Bridge run. The Mackinaw Memorial Bridge Run is held annually on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend.

The Mackinac Bridge Antique Tractor Crossing is another popular annual event. This event, sponsored by Owosso Tractor Parts, features old tractors crossing the Mackinac Bridge and then taking part in a parade in downtown St. Ignace. The 10th annual Antique Tractor Crossing in 2017 saw 1,326 tractors take part.

Mackinac Bridge View Lighthouse

The Trek the Mighty Mac & Expo is the annual ATV crossing. The event is held annually in September and just marked its fourth year of the event in 2017.

The two main cables that make up the Mackinac Bridge contain 42,000 miles worth of wire. There are 12,580 wires in each cable.

The Mackinac Bridge sports a total weight of 1,024,500 tons.

The bridge is made up of 4,851,700 steel rivets and 1,016,600 steel bolts.

Mackinac Bridge Panoramic

More than 4,000 engineering drawings and 85,000 blueprints were used in the construction of the Mackinac Bridge.

On September 25th, 1984, the 50 millionth crossing on the Mackinac Bridge happened.

The 100 millionth crossing on the Mackinac Bridge happened nearly fourteen years later on June 25th, 1998.

Traffic statistics for the number of vehicles crossing the Mackinac Bridge are provided every month. The statistics show that July and August are the two busiest months for cars crossing between Michigan’s two peninsulas. Around 600,000 vehicles pass in each of these months. In 2017, traffic has risen from the prior year in every month except September.

Mackinac Bridge Sheplers Tour

Both of the main ferry services in Mackinaw City and St. Ignace (Sheper’s, Star Line) offer special departures that take guests under the Mackinac Bridge on their way to Mackinac Island. Other special events like lighthouse cruises from Shepler’s take people under the Mackinac Bridge for stunning views of this marvelous Michigan landmark.

Four cameras show live traffic on the Mackinac Bridge. The website for the Mackinac Bridge shows still photos from four different camera views. The cameras are found at the administration building looking South, looking South from the docks in St. Ignace, looking South from Bridge View Park in St. Ignace, and from Mackinaw City looking North. The photos refresh every 60 seconds.

Traffic statistics for the number of vehicles crossing the Mackinac Bridge are provided every month. The statistics show that July and August are the two busiest months for cars crossing between Michigan’s two peninsulas. Around 600,000 vehicles pass in each of these months. In 2017, traffic has risen from the prior year in every month except September.

Mackinac Bridge Driving Over

The first Mackinac Bridge walk happened in June of 1958, when Governor G. Mennen Williams led 68 people who walked across the bridge.

Every person who walks across the Mackinac Bridge for the Labor Day Bridge Walk receives a Certificate of Completion.

In 2015, the first robot walked the Mackinac Bridge. The FIRST Robotics Team from Macomb International Academy (Armada, Michigan) controlled their robot to match the walking speed of Governor Rick Snyder, who led the Mackinac Bridge Labor Day Walk that year.

George H.W. Bush is the only active president to attend the Labor Day Bridge Walk when he led the event in 1992.

The Mackinac Bridge Labor Day Bridge Walk saw over 85,000 people attend in 1992, making it the highest attended year for the annual event.

flag on the Mackinac Bridge Memorial Day

On Memorial Day 2017 (May 29), a giant United States flag was hung from the Mackinac Bridge. This marked the first time a flag flew from the bridge on Memorial Day. The flag flew for several hours before being taken down due to high winds. Plans call for the flag to hang from the Mackinac Bridge on the holidays of Memorial Day, Flag Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, and Veterans Day, depending on weather conditions.

The 2017 Labor Day Bridge Walk was the first year to ban vehicles (other than buses and emergency vehicles) during the event. This precaution was taken due to threats made against bridges around the world.

We highlighted six great ways to view the Mackinac Bridge. This includes from the Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse, Straights State Park (St. Ignace), McGulpin Point Lighthouse, a ferry ride under the bridge, a ferry ride to Mackinac Island, or driving over the bridge.

Shepler's Ferry Mackinac Bridge