Mackinac Bridge to restrict traffic for Labor Day walk

Candice Williams, and Charles E. Ramirez
The Detroit News

Citing general concerns of a possible terrorist attack, the Mackinac Bridge Authority voted Tuesday to restrict traffic on the bridge this year during its annual walk on Labor Day.

Walkers, emergency vehicles and shuttle buses will be allowed on the bridge during the event, in its 60th year. The bridge will be closed to other vehicle traffic from 6:30 a.m. to noon during the walk Sept. 4. The event begins at 7 a.m.

Michigan State Police and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security recommended the authority close the bridge to traffic due to recent terrorist-related attacks, including those in Europe and at Ohio State University in 2016, said Capt. Chris Kelenske, commander of the Michigan State Police, Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division.

There are no known threats to the annual walk, he said.

“Obviously, this is an abundance of caution,” he said.

The authority’s board approved the measure 5-0 during its meeting Tuesday afternoon at the Little Bear East Arena & Community Center in St. Ignace. Two of the board’s seven members — Barbara Arens and Dan Musser — were absent.

“This was not a decision the Mackinac Bridge Authority makes lightly,” William Gnodtke, the authority’s chairman, said in a statement after the vote. “We understand this change will be an inconvenience to our customers traveling Labor Day morning.

“Our board felt this choice strikes the best balance of keeping this 60-year tradition going for the tens of thousands of visitors who walk the bridge each year and keeping them safe.”

Held every year since 1958, the Mackinac Bridge Walk enables people to walk the five-mile length of the bridge.

Each year, between 30,000 and 60,000 people from several states and countries come to the Mackinac Bridge for the walk.

Roughly 9,000 vehicles cross the bridge during the event hours, most carrying walk participants.

The authority said it will inform motorists about the change through the media, postings on its website, through the Michigan Department of Transportation’s message sign system, MDOT’s Mi Drive travel information website and notifications to customers at the bridge.

“The hope is that the messaging gets out today and people have plenty of time to plan,” Kelenske said