The Mackinac Bridge, or “Big Mac” as the locals call it, spans the Straits of Mackinac to join the upper and lower peninsulas of Michigan.
The south or Lower Peninsula entry point is at Mackinaw City; the north or Upper Peninsula entry point is at St. Ignace. The bridge is 5 miles long, making it the fifth-longest suspension bridge in the world. Its towers rise over 500 feet over the strait and support 42,000 miles of cable.
The bridge is officially designated as part of Interstate 75. However, it has a maximum speed limit of 45mph, often lower when there is construction work present. The roadway has two lanes in each direction, with a paved outer lane and a grated inside lane to assist with stability during high winds. Should the crossing experience be a bit much for one’s nerves, the Mackinac Bridge Authority offers a free service which provides a driver who will ferry your car across the bridge. Tolls for vehicles heading in both directions are collected on the Upper Peninsula side near St. Ignace.
Pedestrians are not normally allowed on the bridge; however, an annual “Bridge Walk” allows walkers to traverse the bridge using two of the four traffic lanes.
The Mackinac Bridge was opened to vehicle traffic in 1957. During construction five workers were killed, one death resulting from a diving accident and the remainder from falls. A bridge painter also fell to his death in 1997. A memorial is erected in nearby Clare, MI to honor all bridge workers whose lives were lost.
The bridge is notorious for its low guard rails along the outer edges of its roadway. Two vehicles are known to have gone over the side and into the straits below, one of those a dubious instance in 1987 where the car (a Yugo, no less) was believed to be stopped in the grated inner lane and blown over the side by a gust of wind. Suicides on the bridge are considered to be rare.
Know Before You Go
The toll is $4 for passenger vehicles and $5/axle for "vehicles not meeting passenger vehicle characteristics including but not limited to tractor trailers, buses, motor homes and step or cube vans."