2013-08-02 / News

Mackinac Bridge Authority to Roll Tolls Back to 2012 Rates

By Noriah Williams

Car and truck tolls on the Mackinac Bridge, scheduled to increase in January, will remain where they are, and commuter tolls will be rolled back 10¢ in 2014, the Mackinac Bridge Authority (MBA) decided at its meeting Friday, July 26, on Mackinac Island. Efficient operations have led the MBA to back off on scheduled increases and to evaluate its financial situation again in late 2014 to determine future rates.

The MBA also heard reports on its toll software, painting, Labor Day Bridge Walk, Dark Skies, and law enforcement.

Passenger vehicles now pay $4 (or $2 per axle), and commercial vehicles and motor homes pay $5 per axle under a rate schedule that went into effect January 1, 2012. They were scheduled to increase to $4.50 and $6, respectively, in 2014.

Commuter rates were increased from $2 to $2.10 this year and were to be raised to $2.20 in January, but instead the MBA will roll the rate back to its 2012 rate of $2.

Efficiencies implemented at the bridge over the past several years have led to a healthy financial picture, said MBA Chairman William Gnodtke, so the MBA can afford to hold back on scheduled toll increases for the time being.

Bridge tolls are MBA’s sole revenue and are used to operate and maintain the structure.

Software

The toll bridge software currently in use is reaching its expected end-of-service and Microsoft will no longer support it by January 2015, so new software will soon be in place.

“Nine years ago, we started the process of figuring out if we wanted to write new software in-house or if we wanted to outsource it,” said MBA administrator Bob Sweeney. “The three Michigan toll bridges got together and decided that we were going to go together and try something off the shelf.”

The new software, developed by Xerox, is expected to be in use at the Mackinac Bridge in March 2014. Customizing software for each bridge – Mackinac, Blue Water, and International, has set the project back six weeks, according to Bill Pemble, information technology (IT) manager with the Michigan Department of Technology, Management, and Budget, who presented the schedule.

Painting

Kim Nowack, MBA’s chief engineer, reported that painting of the north approach span is on schedule, with contractor 360 Construction working around the clock, with and without lane closures, for a September completion date. The south approach span painting, a mirror project at the north approach, is a joint venture with contractors Seaway and Atsalis Brothers. The job is scheduled to be done at the end of 2015.

A lawsuit involving the previous contractor for the south side span, Allstate Painting, and its bonding company, American Motorists (AMICO), has been further delayed, said Ms. Nowack, because American Motorists recently filed for liquidation in Cook County, Illinois.

The Mackinac Bridge Authority is suing the contractor for failing to complete warranty work in 2006. MBA completed warranty repairs and sued for the cost of repair work and awaits a ruling from the Michigan Court of Appeals.

“It seems the only news we get is bad news with this case,” said Ms. Nowack.

Authority member Barbara Brown suggested an emergency appeal to the court, based upon the premise that the MBA’s security is in jeopardy, as it appears the company is disposing of assets that could be considered collateral.

Bridge Walk

Preparations for the 56th Annual Bridge Walk are underway, according to Bridge Walk coordinator John Rintamaki. It takes place Labor Day, September 2. The Michigan National Guard will manage crowd and traffic control and provide assistance on the bridge and both ends of the bridge. As in 2012, there will be 211 soldiers on hand.

Dark Skies

The Mackinac Bridge will participate in the Dark Skies Lights Out Across the Straits of Mackinac Challenge by turning off all but essential bridge and office lights.

Scheduled Monday, August 12, the challenge is to see whether Mackinaw City or St. Ignace will reduce their light output the most percentage between 10:30 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. The goal is to call attention to the issue of dark sky preservation.

Traffic

The Michigan State Police have logged in 871 hours patrol hours on the Mackinac Bridge from January through July 2013, issuing 159 verbal warnings and 71 tickets. A majority of the tickets were for speeding.

The motor carrier division logged 512 hours on the bridge, with 337 inspections, and issued 97 tickets. Most of the tickets were for equipment problems, with nine for speeding and three for weight enforcement issues.

Traffic on the bridge has seen a decrease of 2.7%, with commercial traffic down 2.4% and overall revenue is down 2.3% from January 1 through July 21, owing to reduced traffic.

The next meeting for the Mackinac Bridge Authority is October 24 in Charlevoix.

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