Mackinac Bridge Authority Board discusses plan for bridge walk traffic closure
MACKINAC COUNTY, Mi (WPBN/WGTU) -- The Mackinac Bridge Authority gave new information on Thursday about the closing to traffic for the annual bridge walk.
Ever since the bridge authority announced it would be closed to traffic, it has been working on what specific changes it will have to make to handle a several hour bridge closure on one of the summer's busiest days.
The bridge authority expects about 50,000 people to show up to the 60th annual bridge walk on Labor Day.
The board announced in May that for the first time, they would close the bridge off to vehicle traffic during the work citing security concerns and recent terrorist attacks around the world.
“It’s something brand new for us," said Bob Sweeney from the Mackinac Bridge Authority. "There are a lot of things that have come up since we made that decision.”
Some of the only vehicles that will be allowed on the bridge will be buses to transport participants across.
Now that no one can drive across, they will need more buses.
The buses will also be parked on the bridge to even out the weight since the bridge is always moving.
“We know that we’ve got to transport 100 percent of the people who are going to participate in the bridge walk, so that’s up from about 65 percent we typically shuttle across on our buses," Sweeney said.
Due to the new security concerns, all of the bus drivers will have to go through background checks.
“One of our security issues that we’re going to do is the state police is going to vet the bus drivers, so they’re going to go through a screening process to make sure that they’re comfortable with all of the bus drivers that will be driving,” Sweeney said.
The bridge authority and state police couldn't go into every security detail, but they plan to have about 200 state troopers on the bridge and others on each side.
For the drivers who will inevitably get stuck waiting on both ends of the bridge, workers will be there to help out.
“They’re going to go around and look for minor issues that vehicles might be having," Sweeney said. "If they run out of gas, they’ll take care of them so they can get to a gas station. If they have a flat tire, we’ll fix that for them. Anything that’s minor that we can do with a mechanic, we’ll do it for them."
They're also looking for volunteers to hand out water to those drivers.
“Anytime the bridge is closed for anything there’s concern, but we’ve hear a lot of people voice support for the decision, because it really is for the safety of the participants in the walk," said James Lake, a Michigan Department of Transportation spokesperson.
Because of the closure, the bridge will be promptly reopened at noon.
Anyone still walking will be picked up at 11:30.
The bridge authority made the decision to close off traffic during the bridge walk after a recommendation from the Michigan State Police and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.