11-1-15-Mackinac Bridge the first state ferry Ariel

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Enjoy this 2-part 365 Story on Michigan’s very own Big Mac!

As long as Michigan has had two peninsulas, residents and adventurers have wanted to move between them. Since the Straits of Mackinac offer the shortest distance between the lower and upper peninsulas, the four-mile waterway has long been the preferred route back and forth. As the number of people and businesses wishing to cross mushroomed in the 1800s, private water transport proved insufficient and interest turned to building a bridge. The construction of other great bridges – the Brooklyn Bridge, in 1883, and Scotland’s Firth of Forth Bridge, in 1889 – encouraged backers of a bridge over the Straits.

The State of Michigan, however, pursued a more conservative route. In 1923 the Legislature ordered the State Highway Department to establish a ferry service at the Straits. There was such high demand that the ferries couldn’t keep up: in the first year of service, the ferries provided 900,000 vehicle trips. Within five years, ferry traffic became so heavy that Governor Fred Green ordered the Department to study the feasibility of building a bridge. The report was favorable and the cost was estimated at 30 million dollars. Some steps to get the project underway were taken but little progress was made until 1934, when the state legislature created the Mackinac Straits Bridge Authority.

The Authority concluded that it was feasible to construct a combined two-lane highway and one-track railway bridge across the Straits for not more than $32,400,000. The Authority made two attempts between 1934 and 1936 to obtain loans and grants from the Federal Emergency Administration of Public Works, as the project would provide badly-needed transportation and jobs, but both applications were refused, in spite of endorsement by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Bridge backers continued their pursuit. From 1936 to 1940 a new route was selected, borings were made, and comprehensive traffic, geologic, ice and water-current studies were completed. A causeway, jutting 4,200 feet into the Straits from St. Ignace, was constructed. Preliminary plans for a double suspension span were drawn, and the possibility of a bridge became very real. But the Second World War brought progress to a halt and, in 1947, the State Legislature abolished the Mackinac Straits Bridge Authority. As we will see tomorrow, Michiganders did not give up.



To commemorate the City of Troy’s 60th Anniversary in 2015, we will publish a different story each day that highlights a person, discovery, or event that occurred locally, regionally, nationally, or even globally between 1955 and 2015 and that helped shape our lives and our community. We will try to post stories on important anniversary dates, but we also realize that dates are less critical than content and context. We will include the facts related to controversial stories, allowing our readers to form their own opinions. We invite you to read and comment on the stories. Your suggestions for topics are also welcome and can be posted on our Facebook page, www.facebook.com/TroyHistoricVillage. You can also email stories or ideas to the 365 Story Editor at ed@thvmail.org.

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