May 14, 2010

Mackinac Bridge

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We took a few minutes today on our trip home from Sault Ste. Marie to pull off Interstate 75 just north of the Mackinac Bridge to view up close this engineering marvel. I think I have traveled over the bridge fifteen times in my life, but I never really paused to study the longest suspension bridge between anchorages in the Western Hemisphere. This bridge carried over four million vehicles per year on journeys between Michigan's Upper and Lower Peninsulas.

On the north shore of the Straits of Mackinac just before the bridge's toll booth there is a visitor center with some detailed information on the construction of the Mackinac Bridge. Five workers died during the construction of the 5-mile-long causeway and bridge, and the $99 million construction cost of the bridge - which opened in 1957 - would translate into over $700 million in inflation-adjusted U.S. dollars today.

I have long understood the power of the strong winds that often whip through the Straits of Mackinac, but standing on the shore reinforced my appreciation for the wild gusts that sometimes appear. The wind was so strong that my door closed on my leg while getting out of our van, and I estimate the gusts today were in the 40-45 mph range: a person need not worry about purchasing fitness equipment in the ongoing battle against such winds. Though today was mild mid-May weather in the rest of the state, in the Straits of Mackinac the winds still felt like frigid March gales.

2 comments:

unmitigated me said...

I do not like driving over that bridge. Of course, I am also a chicken on the Ambassador bridge, and the one between Cincinnati and Covington, KY.

On the other hand, the construction fascinates me. The Detroit Science Center has a scale model of the Mighty Mac done with Erector Set pieces. Worth the price of admission, right there!

microdot said...

ahh Mike, the part of America that makes me the mos nostalgic.
I have spent alot of time backpacking in the UP, and a few epic bike journeys.
When I grew up in Detroit, summers were spent on the Canadian side of the River across from Belle Isle.
I remember when the Queen made her North American Tour and a huge historical fleet of British Boats came down the River. Then another Uncle who had a boat that moored at the foot of Marquette Street at the Sinbads Marina.
I spent a few years up on the Toledo Terminal railroad bridge on the mouth of Maumee Bay as the night operator.
Trains and Boat Horns are Proustian triggers for me.....
I remember driving over the Makinac Bridge in the 70's in the fog and somewhere in the middle, the sky opened and a blast of sun light poured into the strait and in the mist, there was the end of a rainbow like I had never imagined....Thanks...