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Mackinac Bridge Authority says one proposed bill would make bridge safer; others, more dangerous

mackinac bridge
Robert Du Bois
The Mackinac Bridge links the Lower and Upper peninsulas of the State of Michigan

The Mackinac Bridge Authority is urging the state Senate to pass one bill, and reject two others — in both cases, for safety reasons.

Bridge authority Chairman Patrick "Shorty" Gleason said SB 5315 makes trespassing on or near the bridge a felony instead of a misdemeanor.

The bill was introduced in the wake of several stunts, including a pilot who flew his small plane under the bridge.

"If there's just a little slap on the wrist, it won't stop thrill seekers or individuals that just want to get out and do something out of the ordinary knowing that there is not severe punishment to this," Gleason said.

The Authority opposes two other bills, SB 1078, and SB 1014, that would let farmers drive large equipment over the bridge without a permit.

Gleason says the bridge was designated a "limited access highway " in 1953 for safety reasons, and there's no reason to change that.

Mackinac Bridge Director Kim Nowack said in a statement that the bridge follows Michigan legal load limits.

Without permits, "farm implements would not be passing over our scales on either end of the bridge," she said. "We would have no way to know what their actual weight was before they cross the bridge."

The same farm implement on a trailer would have a permit from the Michigan Department of Transportation and be required to pass over those scales, said Nowack. "A large majority of the repair work we do on the bridge is on the steel under the roadway and enforcing the weight limits is critical to keeping the bridge healthy."

SB 5315 passed in the state House with strong bipartisan support; it has passed out of committee in the Senate, but has not yet been scheduled for a vote on the Senate floor.

Senate bills 1078 and 1014 have also passed out of committee in the state Senate, but there has been no vote on either by the full Senate. If they pass, the bills would then go to the state House for consideration.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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