Big changes planned for 2018 edition of Mackinac Bridge Walk

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ST. IGNACE, Mich. — The annual bridge walk over the Mackinac Bridge this Labor Day will break with tradition in a major way. Let’s say the walk will take a new direction.

The Mackinac Bridge Authority has voted to allow walkers to leave from both St. Ignace — the traditional southbound route — and from Mackinaw City northbound. Further, walkers will be allowed to walk to the middle of the bridge and turn around to return to their starting point or, if they leave early enough, to walk all the way across the bridge.

If walkers choose to go the length of the bridge, they will either have to walk back across the bridge or make their own transportation arrangements to return to their starting point.

In 2017, the bridge was closed to public traffic during the walk, another break with tradition. The bridge will again be closed to public traffic during the walk this year. Authorities cited security concerns from the Michigan State Police and the federal Department of Homeland Security.

The MBA has been rethinking the 60-year tradition for several years, and there’s no guarantee the walk will continue in the long term. “It’s not a given that this event will continue forever,” said MBA board chair William Gnodtke in a release from the agency. “The cost far outweighs, as it applies to the Mackinac Bridge Authority, the benefit”

That cost this year is expected to be $360,000, mainly in staffing costs, whereas the traditional north-to-south hike would cost $560,000.

The MBA followed the recommendations of MSP and DHS in also cancelling other events on the bridge: the Memorial Bridge Run, the Big Mac Spring Bike Tour, the DALMAC, the Law Enforcement Torch Run, Bike the Mighty Mac, the Mighty Mac Bridge Race, and the Fall Colors Bridge Race.

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