CR4® - The Engineer's Place for News and Discussion®


"On This Day" In Engineering History Blog

"On This Day" In Engineering History

Tune in to find out about significant engineering events that took place "on this day".

Previous in Blog: October 31, 2000 – The Last Multics Machine   Next in Blog: November 5, 1895 - The First U.S. Patent for an Automobile
Close
Close
Close
2 comments

November 1, 1957 - The Mackinac Bridge Opens

Posted November 01, 2007 12:01 AM by Steve Melito

Fifty years ago today, the Mackinac Bridge was opened to automobile traffic for the first time. The 5-mile long, 4-lane, 2-tower suspension bridge joins Michigan's upper and lower peninsulas, and spans the Straits of Mackinac, an important shipping lane which connects Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. Affectionately known as "Big Mac" and "Mighty Mac", the Mackinac Bridge connects St. Ignace with Mackinaw City, and is one of only two tolled segments on I-75, a 1786.5-mile interstate that runs from Hialeah, Florida to Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. The 120 workers who now maintain the Mackinac Bridge plow snow, perform inspections and repairs, and offer a drivers' assistance program for motorists who are too frightened to drive their own vehicles across the 26,444 feet long structure. During the bridge's 50 year history, six workers have died and two vehicles have fallen into the Straits of Mackinac.

Planning the Mackinac Bridge

Planning for the Mackinac Bridge began almost 75 years before the Michigan legislature and Gov. G. Mennen Williams authorized financing and construction on April 30, 1952. During the 1880s, a group of investors led by Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt lobbied for a bridge across the Straits to provide better access to Mackinac Island's Grand Hotel, a resort which Vanderbilt called "the largest well-equipped hotel of its kind in the world". In 1920, Michigan's first state highway commissioner proposed a floating tunnel to link the state's upper and lower peninsulas. Competing plans envisioned a series of causeways and bridges, but opponents objected to the project's cost. Although the state of Michigan did complete a causeway in the summer of 1941, America's entry into World War II halted further construction efforts. The Mackinac Straights Bridge Authority was eventually dissolved in 1947, but the efforts of Sen. Prentiss M. Brown and Gov. G. Mennen Williams led to the creation of a new agency in 1950.

Building the Mackinac Bridge

Construction on the Mackinac Bridge began on May 7, 1954 and lasted over three years. David B. Steinman, a former newsboy who dreamed of building a structure such as the Brooklyn Bridge, was chosen as chief designer and given a budget of nearly $100 million (USD). Merritt-Chapman & Scott Corporation, the winner of a $25.7 million contract to build all of the bridge's foundations, amassed the largest bridge-construction fleet ever assembled. Armed with a $44.5 million contract, the American Bridge Division of U.S. Steel produced bars, cables, wires and plates for the superstructure, and caissons and cofferdams for the foundations. According to the Detroit News, building the Mackinac Bridge required 85,000 blueprints; 71,300 tons of structural steel; 466,300 cubic yards of concrete; 41,000 miles of cable and wire; and millions of steel rivets and bolts.

More Than Money and Materials

To build the world's longest uninterrupted crossing over water, David B. Steinman needed more than money and materials. The 2500 engineers, divers, laborers, and steel workers who helped build the Mackinac Bridge braved strong winds and temperature extremes as they worked long hours without safety harnesses or nets. Perched high above the Straits of Mackinac, bridge workers were motivated not only by money, but by a sense of pride. "They finished a job in four seasons that should have taken 10 years," one worker later recalled. The bridge construction project was "the high point in almost all of the workers' lives". Because of the bridge builders' efforts, both of the bridge's main towers reached bedrock by early May of 1955. Construction of the steel towers lasted from July to November, and was followed by the laying of roadway and spinning of cables.

Albert Carter's Chevrolet Styleline

On November 1, 1957, an Illinois jazz musician named Albert Carter became the first person to drive across the Mackinac Bridge. His car, a dark green Chevrolet Styleline Deluxe, was also the first vehicle to travel round-trip on I-94 between Chicago and Detroit. In amassing over 300,000 miles on his car, Carter would travel the highways of 49 states, failing to visit only Hawaii. Later, he received permission from the U.S. Coast Guard to have his high-mileage station wagon "buried at sea" beneath the Straits of Mackinac. Environmental groups objected, however, so Carter donated his car to the Grand Rapids Public Museum, where it remained in storage for over 25 years. Today, thanks to help from classic car enthusiasts, Albert Carter's restored Chevrolet is on display at Grand Rapids' Van Andel Museum.

Resources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Straits_of_Mackinac

http://blog.mlive.com/michigan_travel/2007/05/first_car_to_cross_mackinac_br.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interstate_75

http://info.detnews.com/history/story/index.cfm?id=156&category=locations}}

Reply

Interested in this topic? By joining CR4 you can "subscribe" to
this discussion and receive notification when new comments are added.
Guru
United States - Member - New Member Technical Fields - Technical Writing - New Member Popular Science - Weaponology - Organizer Hobbies - Target Shooting - New Member Engineering Fields - Nuclear Engineering - New Member

Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 3500
Good Answers: 32
#1

Re: November 1, 1957 - The Mackinac Bridge Opens

11/02/2007 8:26 AM

So what was crossing the Mackinac Straits like before the Mackinac Bridge was built? Here's an excerpt from the Detroit News.

"Boats ferried people and cars back and forth across the Mackinac Straits during the first half of this century. In the late '30s, 400 employees of nine ferries could unload and reload autos, customers and cargo in just 24 minutes. They covered the water highway in 40 minutes before turning around and doing it all again. During peak seasons, the ferries ran around-the-clock. Despite these heroic efforts only 9,000 cars could be handled each day. Sometimes cars awaiting transport backed up as far as Cheboygan, 16 miles away."

Reply
Anonymous Poster
#2

Re: November 1, 1957 - The Mackinac Bridge Opens

04/20/2010 8:43 AM

I've been acrost the Mackinac Bridge and my grandma has walked it. I'm trying to do a project but I've already got all the info there is and I'm still 1 1/2 pages short!

Reply
Reply to Blog Entry 2 comments
Interested in this topic? By joining CR4 you can "subscribe" to
this discussion and receive notification when new comments are added.

Previous in Blog: October 31, 2000 – The Last Multics Machine   Next in Blog: November 5, 1895 - The First U.S. Patent for an Automobile

Advertisement