As many as 60,000 people are expected to converge in the Straits of Mackinac Monday, September 4 to take part in the 60th Annual Mackinac Bridge Labor Day Walk. As a safety precaution, the Mackinac Bridge Authority will close the bridge to automobile traffic between 6:30 a.m. and noon that day—only authorized buses transporting walkers and emergency vehicles will be permitted on the bridge during that time.
This is the first year that the five-mile Mackinac Bridge itself will be closed to vehicles during the walk, which begins at sunrise at 7 a.m. in St. Ignace. Participants must board an official shuttle bus by 10 a.m. in order to complete the walk by noon.
Michigan State Police (MSP) are also planning some highway and ramp closures along Interstate 75 and US-2 to reduce traffic flow in the Straits area that morning.
MSP has contingency plans for traffic issues on Monday morning while the Mackinac Bridge is closed. Gaylord State Police Post Commander, 1st Lt. Mark Harris says that the process of directing traffic during the Bridge Walk is going to be an “ongoing, fluid situation.” Officials will strategize about how best to direct traffic throughout the day. “Obviously, the intent is to minimize motorists being stranded while the bridge is closed.” He has provided the following details to be shared with the public:
- Due to the closing of the Mackinac Bridge between 6:30 a.m. and noon, there will be a closure of Northbound I-75 at Exit 337 on the south end of the bridge, and a closure of southbound US-2 and I-75 at Exit 344 in the Upper Peninsula. This closure has been advertised for a couple of months now.
- MSP troopers will be deployed at various traffic points in the region to monitor traffic flow and assist in re-routing motorists as much as possible. MSP Aviation assets will also be able to monitor traffic conditions from the sky.
- Travelers should assume that access to I-75 north of Gaylord may be restricted during the time of the bridge closure, as we want to limit, to the extent we can, the number of motorists stranded on the expressway during the bridge closure.
- If traffic conditions warrant, additional closures of I-75 further south of Indian River will occur; however, discretion will be used, as we recognize there will be motorists traveling I-75 between Gaylord and Indian River, and we want them to be able to get to their destinations. These closures will be a fluid process based on traffic conditions.
- We are encouraging travelers in northern Michigan to plan ahead and account for these road closures.
- All actions taken will be in the best interest of public safety and we’ll be working in cooperation with Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) to have as minimal effect on traffic flow as possible.
- It should be expected that traffic flow in northern Michigan will be impacted to some degree due to the morning’s bridge closure. Our best advice for motorists planning to travel these impacted roads is to travel prior to 6:30 a.m. on Labor Day or to delay travel until the afternoon.
In preparation for the closure, 150 portable toilets will be placed every quarter mile along this stretch of US-2 which runs along the Lake Michigan shoreline. MBA will also offer water and snack stations for motorists waiting for the bridge to reopen.
Additionally, two MBA mechanics will be patrolling on both sides of the bridge to help anyone who might be having vehicle problems during the delay.
Text Alerts Available for Mackinac Bridge Annual Walk
With the assistance of Mackinac County 911/Emergency Management, you can sign up now for text updates during this year’s Labor Day Bridge Walk.
Mackinac County 911, using its RAVE Alert System, will send updates and information from the MBA to users’ cell phones now through Labor Day. Alerts will focus on event schedule reminders, traffic notifications, weather updates, and emergency notifications.
“With the changes taking place during this year’s walk, we’re trying to reach as many travelers and bridge walk participants as possible,” said Bob Sweeney, executive secretary of the MBA. “We really appreciate Mackinac County 911/Emergency Management’s willingness to make this system available for notifications on this event.”
There is no cost to receive these updates, aside from any texting fees from the participant’s mobile coverage plan. The system will automatically shut down on September 5.
To opt in to this text alert system:
- Text “mackinacbridgewalk2017” to 67283
- Users will receive a reply “Welcome to the Mackinac Bridge Walk 2017 text alerting system,” verifying participation in the text alerting system for the event.
- Users can opt out by sending a reply “STOP mackinacbridgewalk2017” if they no longer wish to receive text messages/alerts. Messages will automatically stop on Sept. 5.
2017 Mackinac Bridge Walk Details
- NEW FOR 2017: Only buses transporting walkers and emergency vehicles will be permitted on the Mackinac Bridge between 6:30 a.m. and noon. As a safety precaution, the bridge will be closed to all other traffic during this time.
- The Mackinac Bridge Walk begins at 7 a.m. and no one is permitted to begin their walk after 10 a.m.
- Although the walk can be completed in about an hour, the typical walk will take about 2 hours. No running or jogging is permitted.
- A fleet of school buses takes the majority of walkers from Mackinaw City to St. Ignace. Other walkers use the buses to return to the UP. There is no fee to walk the bridge, but there is a $5 charge for the bus. The buses run from the Old State Dock in Mackinaw City from 5:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m.
- Baby strollers and wheelchairs are allowed on the bridge during the walk. The ONLY animals permitted are working service dogs.
- The following are NOT permitted on the bridge during the walk: smoking, signs, banners, umbrellas, bicycles, roller skates, skateboards, wagons and other similar devices.
- There are no restrooms on the bridge, but there are huge banks of portable toilets at both ends.
- Upon reaching Mackinaw City, walkers are awarded a numbered “Certificate of Completion.” School buses shuttle walkers back to their cars.
The Mackinac Bridge Walk was started and took place in late June 1958 during the bridge’s dedication ceremony, led by Governor G. Mennen Williams. That first year only 68 people walked across the bridge. The walk was changed to Labor Day in 1959, and for the first few years, participants in the walk alternated north and south in consecutive years. The St. Ignace to Mackinaw City (north-to-south) route became a constant in 1964.
In an average year, 40,000 to 65,000 people participate in the five-mile walk—nearly the combined population of the three counties connected by the bridge (Emmet, Cheboygan and Mackinac). The record number of walkers is estimated at 85,000 in 1992 when President George H.W. Bush participated. Over the past 60 years, it is estimated the collective number of walkers is over 2 million.
The “Mighty Mac” is currently the third largest suspension bridge in the world. Construction began in May 1954 (with official ceremonies taking place in both St. Ignace and Mackinaw City) and was completed in 1957. The first private car to cross the bridge—1951 Chevrolet Styleline De Luxe station wagon driven by Al Carter of Chicago—did so on November 1 that year. That vehicle is on permanent display at the Grand Rapids Public Museum.
For information about the history of the Mackinac Bridge (including some interesting facts and figures about its size and construction, check out the official website of the Mackinac Bridge Authority.
Motorists who are delayed in their crossing of the Mackinac Bridge on Monday, September 4 are invited to explore some of Mackinaw City’s unique attractions, including (but not limited to):
- Mackinaw Bridge Museum (above Mama Mia’s Pizza in downtown Mackinaw City)
- Historic Mill Creek
- Colonial Michilimackinac
- Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse
- McGulpin Point Lighthouse
- Mackinaw Historical Society Heritage Village
- Wilderness State Park
- Mackinaw Crossings
- Icebreaker Mackinaw
- Mackinaw Trolley
- Ugly Anne Boat Cruises
- Mackinac Bay Build a Bear
- Headlands International Dark Sky Park
- Animal Tracks or Trappers Creek Mini Golf
- Adrenaline Falls Adventure Zipline
- Mackinaw Parasailing
- US23 Heritage Route (along the Lake Huron coastline)
For lodging reservations for the Labor Day weekend, or throughout the fall season, visit MackinawCity.com/stay/.
—Press Release provided by Mackinaw Area Visitors Bureau