St. Ignace, MI - For the first time in three years, crowds at the Annual Mackinac Bridge Walk grew, with an estimated 30,000 people shrugging off blustery weather to walk the Mighty Mac this Labor Day.
This was the third year that the bridge was closed to public traffic during the walk, and the second year of the event starting from both Mackinaw City and St. Ignace with options for participants. About 25,000 people participated in the walk each of the last two years.
"We're thrilled that more people chose to join us this morning for this 62-year tradition," said Mackinac Bridge Authority (MBA) Executive Secretary Kim Nowack. "Each year is different, with people from across the globe coming to walk the bridge, and we hope everyone enjoyed this opportunity to see the bridge from this vantage."
Michigan State Police St. Ignace Post Commander F/Lt. John Schneider, who coordinated the law enforcement security and traffic control during the walk, said the event went incredibly well from a safety standpoint.
"The numerous agencies and entities involved in the security component worked together flawlessly with great cooperation and collaboration to ensure the welfare and safety of the staff and the citizens," Schneider said. "An event of this magnitude would never succeed at this level without such great partners."
The bridge was closed to public traffic from 6:30 a.m. to noon during the event, as it was in 2017 and 2018. Although southbound traffic on US-2 and northbound on I-75 did start to back up at around 11:30 a.m., traffic cleared quickly once the bridge reopened at noon.
The most significant change to the walk for people who had not participated prior to 2018 was that it started from both ends of the bridge, eliminating the need for buses transporting participants from Mackinaw City to St. Ignace. Many people reported walking the entire bridge, either in one or both directions, and arranged their own transportation, if needed.
Starting the walk from both ends of the bridge offered new options for participants, including turning around at the midpoint of the bridge and returning to the city they started from, walking the entire bridge and arranging their own transportation, or walking the entire bridge twice and returning to the city they started from.
The MBA decided to close the bridge to public traffic during the walk beginning in 2017, based on recommendations from the Michigan State Police and U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Emergency vehicles are still permitted to cross the bridge during the event, but no public vehicles were allowed until the walk concluded and participants were off the bridge.