Recognizing that the Annual Mackinac Bridge Walk draws participants from throughout the state, the Mackinac Bridge Authority (MBA) today set another public meeting to discuss proposed changes to the event before making a decision.
The MBA board scheduled a special meeting for 9 a.m. Monday, Nov. 20, in Lansing to hear additional comments on options for bridge walk direction, busing and date. A specific venue for the meeting has not been decided. The meeting will be broadcast on the Michigan Department of Transportation’s (MDOT) LiveStream channel for those unable to attend in person.
“I had hoped we could come to this meeting today and make a decision, but as comments continue to come in, it’s clear that we need additional input before finalizing plans,” said Bill Gnodtke, chairman of the MBA board. “This will give people both additional time and opportunities to share their comments with us through our website and in person.”
The board heard presentations from bridge staff on the 2017 walk and options for the 2018 event both this morning at the board’s regular meeting and a public meeting Wednesday evening, and listened to comments from those in attendance. The MBA also has been collecting comments in meetings with Straits area businesses and tourism groups, and through its website, www.mackinacbridge.org/about-the-bridge/contact-us/.
Both meetings were available to view live on MDOT’s LiveStream channel at https://livestream.com/MDOT/2018BridgeWalkPublicMeeting and https://livestream.com/MDOT/MBAMeeting102617. A recorded version of Wednesday’s meeting is available to view at the same link; a recording of this morning’s meeting will be available later today.
The options proposed by MBA staff are posted on the Authority’s website at www.mackinacbridge.org/mba-staff-proposals-2018-annual-bridge-walk/. They include:
Starting the walk from both St. Ignace and Mackinaw City (no buses)
In this option, walkers would begin from both the St. Ignace and Mackinaw City ends of the bridge in one outside lane to the halfway point, then crossing the center lanes of the bridge and heading back to their starting point in the other outside lane. Those who wish to, and if they begin the walk early enough, would have the option to continue across the entire bridge. Those who do walk the full length of the bridge will need to walk back across the bridge – for a 10-mile hike round trip – or make their own transportation arrangements to get back to the side they started from after the bridge reopens to public traffic. In this option, no buses will transport participants across the bridge; the center two lanes will remain open to emergency vehicles.
Start the walk in Mackinaw City and end in St. Ignace (with bus service)
The Annual Bridge Walk alternated directions every other year until 1965, when it was permanently changed to start in St. Ignace and end in Mackinaw City. Under this option, the direction would flip, starting in Mackinaw City and ending in St. Ignace. As approximately 80 percent of walk participants arrive from the south side, more participants could begin the walk immediately after their arrival in Mackinaw City. As long as people board a bus by 9:30 a.m. at Bridge View Park in St. Ignace, or arrive at the starting line by 10 a.m., they should be able to walk the bridge.
Start the walk in St. Ignace (with bus service and a new bus loading area)
In this option, the bridge walk would start in St. Ignace and end in Mackinaw City as in the past, but with a different bus loading area in Mackinaw City to maximize bus transportation efficiency. At the current bus loading area, the State Dock, only eight buses can be loaded at a time. A new loading area, such as the Mackinaw City School parking lot, would provide room 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.
All the proposed options presume the bridge will be closed to public traffic during the walk, from 6:30 a.m. to noon, as it was this year. MBA staff have also suggested the board consider other days for the bridge walk other than the traditional Labor Day, including the Saturday or Sunday of Labor Day weekend, Memorial Day weekend, or another weekend in the spring or early summer.