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Michigan's Connections- Modern Marvels
Michigan boasts 2 of the finest transportation connections:
- The Mackinac Bridge (Red Circle)
- Soo Locks (Blue Circle)
Both are modern marvels in engineering and
both are heavily trafficked and commercial ventures throughout the country depend upon these connections.
Michigan also has 3 international bridges which we share with Canada. These bridges are the only connection to Canada that Michigan has as there is no shared international land border.
The three bridges are
- TheThe International Bridge (Blue Circle)
- Ambassador Bridge ( White Circle)
- The Blue Water Highway Bridge (Pink Circle)
The Mackinac Bridge
The Mighty Mac, as it is called, is the 3rd largest
suspension bridge in the United States and the 12th largest in the
world. Although spelled with a 'c' at the end, Mackinac is pronounced Mackinaw.
The Mackinac Bridge connects the Upper Peninsula of
Michigan to the Lower Peninsula and is the only connection for travelers within
the state, making it a heavily populated crossing. The Mackinac Bridge connects Mackinaw City on the south to St. Ignace on the north.
The waters under the bridge connect Lake Michigan to Lake Huron.
Built in 1957, the bridge opened on November 1st of that year and the formal dedication was in June, 1958. The ferries that, up until this point, transported people and goods across the water, stopped running that very day.
To me the bridge is sort of majestic looking. I know that may sound strange but standing nearby and just looking at the bridge, you can't help but feel the awesomeness of it. Maybe it is simply because I am from Michigan that I feel a certain amount of pride in the Mackinac Bridge.
The bridge is very impressive. It runs 5 miles long and the main tower stands 552 Ft. above the water. Built with deep trusses and a partially open grated surface, the bridge can withstand winds up to 150 miles per hour.
Contrary to local folklore, no bodies are buried in the concrete. There is a plaque on the bridge honoring the 5 men who died during the construction of the bridge. There has been only one fatality by a bridge worker in the history of the bridge. In 1998, a worker fell about 65 feet from scaffolding, surviving the fall but died of exposure in the cold water. His body was found the following day.
Two cars have fallen off the bridge, one by a gust of wind and the other an intentional drive off. Three Marine Reserve Officers were killed when their small plane plunged in to the lake after the plane’s wing was torn off by smashing into the bridge’s cables in dense fog.
It took 40 years for the bridge to claim its 100 millionth crossing in June of 1998. September of 2009 saw the 150 millionth. There are thousand of crossings each day. In August of 2010, there were more than 2.5 million crossings.
Walking the Bridge
Labor Day of each year, the governor of the state of Michigan leads the 5 mile walk across the bridge. The Bridge Walk tradition started the very first year after the bridge was completed, in Sept. 1958 and has been every year since. Hundreds of thousand people participate in the annual event.
I walked the bridge as a child and would love to do so again. At the end of the walk you are presented this a certificate of accomplishment in completing the walk across the bridge.
Bicycles are not allowed to travel the bridge. There is a service that will take your bikes over for you. However, there are now special days similar to the Labor Day walk, for bicycles to cross and one even for tractors. In fact, this same service will drive anyone across as there are some who are nervous about driving over the bridge.
Traveling across the bridge on a motorcycle is quite an experience as well. Riding on the grated surface has been dubbed 'downright crazy.'
The winds across the bridge can really be felt when driving a motor-home or pulling a trailer across as well. Conditions for crossing are posted daily on each side of the bridge.
The Soo Locks
The Soo Locks are the crown jewel of Michigan's oldest city - Sault Ste. Marie.
The Soo Locks connect Lake Huron to Lake Superior. Lake Superior’s water level sits approximately 12 feet above the water level in Lake Huron over some very rocky riverbed. Before the locks were built, the St. Mary’s River flowed from Lake Superior to Lake Huron in a series of waterfalls, unmanageable by boats in a direct path.
Transportation by water through these falls was too dangerous. All goods and passengers had to disembark and travel on land past the falls where they could resume their travels.
The Soo Locks consist of 4 individual lock systems, each running east to west. Currently, the U.S. owns the locks and has been maintained by the United States Army Corps of Engineers since 1881. The Soo Locks provide free passage for all ships traveling through the straits.
- The MacArthur Lock – Built in 1943, it is about 800 feet long, 80 feet wide and over 29 feet deep. It is large enough to handle many ocean going vessels.
- The Poe Lock – Originally built in 1896, this lock was the largest in the world at the time. This lock was rebuilt and expanded in 1968, after the opening of the St Lawrence Seaway in order to accommodate the huge ore carriers that travel from one end of the Great Lakes to the other. Some of these ore cargo ships can carry as much as 72,000 tons of ore. The Poe Lock is 1200 feet long, 110, feet wide and 32 feet deep.
- The Davis Lock – Built in 1914, this lock is not used often. Only used during busy shipping season when traffic warrants. It is 1350 feet long, 80 feet wide and just over 23 feet deep.
- The Sabin Lock – This lock is currently listed in caretaker status, which means it is no longer being used. This lock is 1350 feet long, 80 feet wide and slightly deeper than 23 feet.
The International Bridge
The International Bridge
The Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge is more commonly called the International Bridge.
The bridge is located at the west end of the Soo Locks, connecting the cities of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan and Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. The bridge opened to traffic on 1962. It is 2.8 miles long.
A much needed truck lane was added to the exit/entrance on the Ontario side in 2006. The bridge exits right into the city on both sides.
Starting in 1987, there is also an annual bridge walk across this bridge and it is open to the public. It is scheduled on the last Saturday on June to coincide with the Canadian Holiday on July 1st.
Although there isn’t a bike path on the bridge, bicycles are allowed to travel across – using adequate precaution to ensure visibility.
The Ambassador Bridge
The Ambassador Bridge
The Ambassador Bridge connects Detroit Michigan to Windsor Ontario. It is privately owned by the International Bridge Company. This bridge is the busiest international trade crossing in terms of volume.
Over 10,000 commercial vehicles travel this bridge on an ordinary work day. The bridge is 7,500 feet long crossing the Detroit River. The bridge was completed in 1929.
The Blue Water Bridge
The Blue Water Bridge
The Blue Water Bridge was built in 1938 and completely redone in 1997. This Bridge crosses the St Clair River and connects Port Huron, Michigan to Sarnia Canada.
This Bridge is also a very heavily trafficked bridge will over 6,000 commercial vehicles crossing daily. The bridge spans 6,109 feet across.