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Mackinac Bridge making security plans for Labor Day walk

The operators of the Mackinac Bridge are warning there could be big traffic backups on Labor Day. That’s because the bridge will be closed to vehicle traffic for about five and a half hours during the annual Labor Day bridge walk.

The Mackinac Bridge Authority made the initial decision in May because of security concerns after terrorists drove cars and trucks into crowds in London, Stockholm, and Paris.

Bill Gnodtke chairs the authority. He says it’s become harder to guarantee safety where large crowds gather.

“[We’re] trying to handle, very honestly, a very difficult situation,” he said. “None of us on this authority, none of our staff have been through a situation like this.”

The board met Thursday at the Mackinac Island City Hall.

One repercussion of the decision is expected to be long traffic backups in the roadways leading to the bridge. The authority is making plans to place porta-johns on roadsides and make bottled water available to stuck motorists. The Michigan Department of Transportation is also developing a public information campaign to alert travelers who might be able to change their plans.

The members also voted unanimously to give the bridge’s director the power to make decisions on situations that arise during the bridge walk without waiting on board approval.

Only emergency vehicles and busses ferrying bridge walkers will be allowed to operate on the bridge during the event. Busses will also be parked along one side of the suspension bridge as a counterweight to the crowd walking on the other side.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987. His journalism background includes stints with UPI, The Elizabeth (NJ) Daily Journal, The (Pontiac, MI) Oakland Press, and WJR. He is also a lifelong public radio listener.