2017-10-26 / Front Page

Options Proposed For Bridge Walk

Public Meeting Is Wednesday To Discuss Strategies for Future of Annual Event

Ahead of a public forum to discuss plans for the Labor Day Bridge Walk, the staff at the Mackinac Bridge Authority (MBA) proposed several options for the event Friday, October 20. Changes could include rerouting the walk or moving it to another date.

The public meeting will be Wednesday, October 25, at 5 p.m. at the Mackinaw City Recreation Complex, 507 West Central Avenue. At its regular meeting the following day, the MBA will consider the options for amending the walk in future years.

For the first time this year, the MBA closed the bridge to vehicle traffic during the walk on the recommendation of the Michigan State Police and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. While all the participants were safe and the anticipated traffic backups caused by the bridge closure didn’t occur, the walk was plagued by long lines. And while the bridge authority had 50% more buses this year than in 2016, many people were still unable to walk the bridge, which the bridge authority would like to remedy in the future.

The first option would be to reroute the walk and eliminate the need for buses entirely. Walkers could start from either St. Ignace or Mackinaw City, then would have to turn around when they got to the middle point of the bridge. If time allows, some participants could walk all the way across the bridge, but would have to walk back across, or they would have to find their own way back across the bridge.

The turnaround point would move toward either end of the bridge beginning at 10:45 a.m. No participant would be turned away up until the walk ended, although participants starting 15 minutes before the end time would likely not make it very far before needing to turn back.

This rerouting would eliminate the estimated $200,000 in busing expenses, in addition to the staff and volunteer time setting up and staffing the bus loading areas. The Michigan State Police would no longer need to vet bus drivers, and participants would not need to pay for shuttle bus transportation.

The second option would be to have the walk start in Mackinaw City and end in St. Ignace. The Mackinac Bridge Authority estimates that about 80% of the participants arrive from the Lower Peninsula, so more participants could begin the walk as soon as they arrive in Mackinaw City. As long as people on the north side of the bridge board a bus by 9:30 a.m. or people on the south side get in line by 10 a.m., they should be able to walk the bridge, the MBA said.

The rerouted walk would start at Jamet Street on the west side of the bridge. Participants would walk on the west lanes of the bridge to Bridge View Park in St. Ignace.

Buses would still be needed to transport participants to Mackinaw City, either to start the walk or return after finishing it. The MBA estimates it would need 175 buses, 50 more than in 2017, which would add $125,000 in costs. Because the majority of participants would be returning to Mackinaw City, rather than St. Ignace, after the walk, the MBA estimates it would take several hours, perhaps to 6 p.m. or later, to get all participants back to Mackinaw City. Once the bridge reopens, participants would have the option to arrange for private transportation.

The walk has started in Mackinaw City in the past, as the event alternated directions every other year until 1965.

For the third option, the walk would start in St. Ignace and end in Mackinaw City as is has in the past, but the MBA would choose a new bus loading area in Mackinaw City to increase efficiency. At the current bus loading area at the State Dock, only eight buses can be loaded at a time. A new loading area, like the Mackinaw City school parking lot, would be big enough to load 12 buses at a time. With 175 buses (50 more than in 2017) and no breakdowns or delays in traffic, this system could transport about 24,000 participants to the starting line in time to complete the walk. The additional buses would again cost the MBA $125,000 more than in 2017. And if people arrive late, or more people show up than the buses can accommodate, they would be turned away.

In addition to these options for modifying the bridge walk logistics and starting points, the MBA board will consider several alternate dates to have the walk.

They will consider keeping the walk on Labor Day, which remains a traditionally busy travel day. They could also decide to move the walk to the Saturday or Sunday before Labor Day, which would keep it associated with Labor Day weekend, but held on a day that has less traffic.

Another option would be to move it to the weekend after Labor Day. This would likely decrease participation because school has started. This weekend also conflicts with the Owosso Tractor Parts Antique Tractor Parade and Show and events at Colonial Michilimackinac. Moving the event to the first weekend in June when there are lower traffic volumes would likely decrease participation. The MBA is also considering moving it to the first weekend in May to coincide with the anniversary of the start of bridge construction, or to a Saturday in late spring when there are lower traffic volumes, but would likely decrease participation.

In addition to giving their comments at the upcoming public meetings, people can also submit comments on the options or offer suggestions of their own on the MBA’s Web site at http://www.mackinacbridge.org/a bout-the-bridge/contact-us/ .

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