The “Mighty Mac” Mackinac of Michigan

Tuesday, November 9th – We would like to thank all of our trolls for their patience as we had a busy holiday weekend and were a bit delayed getting this episode out. This week we head to Michigan as we cover the Mackinac (AKA the Might Mac) bridge.

Mackinac Bridge - WorldAtlas

The closest point between the Upper and Lower Peninsula of Michigan is the Strait of Mackinac, which is approximately 4 miles in length. It is also where Lake Huron connects with Lake Michigan. The bridge itself runs from Mackinaw City (on the lower peninsula) to St. Ignace (on the upper peninsula, which is colloquially known as “The U-P”). There is also a Mackinac Island which is in Lake Huron and pretty close to the bridge. Essentially the bridge is holding together the state of Michigan.

Those reading this post may be asking why were are pronouncing it as Mackinaw (though its spelled Mackinac) – we have an answer for you. The area was named Michilimackinac by Native Americans. When the French arrive and built a fort in 1715, they recorded the name with “ac” on the end because in French a word ending in “ac” sounds like “aw”. Thus Michilimackinac was shortened to Mackinac. Edgar Conking was the founder of the city in 1857 and changed the name to Mackinaw to reflect how the word actually sounds. Despite the city’s name change, the strait/island/bridge kept the “c”.

The history of deciding to build a bridge here runs very deep. Beginning in 1884, the genesis of building this bridge is similar to our Akashi Kaikyo bridge – a ferry service across the straight was failing. There was a newspaper company that used the Brooklyn Bridge design as propaganda for gassing up locals to think a bridge was underway. On top of that, the board of directors of the Grand Hotel at Mackinac Island said that a bridge needs to be built since they have the “largest well equipped hotel of its kind in the world”… With all of that said, the first feasibility study wasn’t constructed until 1928. The results were favorable and the estimate was about $30 Million, however, the plans were eventually dropped.

Plans picked back up in 1934 and the Mackinac Straits Bridge Authority began efforts to finance the bridge. The bridge started to become a reality in 1940 but WWII was commencing in Europe, and Michigan State Legislature abolished the Bridge Authority. Fast forwarding to 1950, bridge backers formed a committee and issued a plan for getting a bridge built. This was no easy feat. The committee jumped through hoops to figure out financing, throw in the Korean War that delayed construction due to shortage of materials and a group of investors who decided to pull out — you have yourself another delayed bridge project. Eventually the market recovered and $99,800,000 worth of Mackinac Bridge Bonds were bought by investors. If you haven’t noticed, this is the abridged version of the story. Be sure to check out our episode to get the details!

The Might Mac is the 5th longest suspension bridge in the world. If you measure the main span alone, however, it is the 26th longest in the world. David B. Steinman was the designer and had an impressive resume (designing over 400 bridges across 5 continents). Under max wind loading, the Mackinac Bridge can deflect laterally up to 35 feet! Additionally the bridge was designed to withstand the ice accumulation every winter (which is a lot in this area).

Everyone who is familiar with this bridge knows about the fascinating paint job. The iconic colors were actually picked by an ad agency who ran a rendering of the bridge in one of their ads for an equipment company that provided machinery for the contractor. The Bridge Authority liked the look so much they kept it!

No, the Mackinac Bridge isn't changing its colors - that's primer

Be sure to check out the whole episode to learn more about the Mackinac Bridge and some fun facts the boys cover. Jeremy tells a spooky story regarding the bridge and Andreas talks about the annual bridge walk.

Thanks again for checking out our blog and as always drop a comment or bridge recommendation. Also be sure to check out our merch store!

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