Mackinac Bridge Authority reinstates driver assistance program, with an increased price

The program offers bridge employees to drive the passengers car across the Mackinac Bridge
Published: Oct. 14, 2021 at 2:10 PM EDT
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MACKINAC CITY, Mich. (WJRT) - The Mackinac Bridge Authority is reinstating the driver assistance program, now with a fee, on Nov, 1.

The driver assistance program, is an offer where a Mackinac Bridge Authority employee drives the customer’s vehicle, motorcycle, or commercial vehicle across the bridge for them.

The bridge authorities said that this program was used by 2,559 customers in 2019, before the service was suspended on March 13, 2020 due to safety concerns with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The program, which first began in the 1980s, was previously free of charge. It will now cost passengers $10 per trip to help with the upkeep of the service.

The bridge authority said that the average cost is nearly $33 per trip for the program. They said that the price for passengers will increase to $15 per trip starting on Jan. 1, 2025.

The Mackinac Bridge Authority voted on Thursday to bring this program back on Nov. 1, along with the programs that include help with pedestrians, bicyclists, and snowmobile transportation.

“Suspending these popular programs was a difficult decision, but one that was necessary based on what we knew then about this ongoing pandemic,” said Authority Chairman Patrick “Shorty” Gleason. “As our committee and staff have examined these programs, it became clear that reinstatement should come with changes to address staff concerns and costs of the services provided, as the programs have been provided at a net loss for the Authority.”

It is said that staff will complete a checklist of several necessary and mandatory items that the customer must agree to.

This will include allowing for the bridge employee to adjust mirrors and the driver’s seat, using a dash camera to record the inside of the vehicle during the crossing, keeping animals in the vehicle restrained, having all occupants wear a mask covering their nose and mouth, and allowing the vehicle to be cleaned before crossing.

“We understand that some customers need this assistance to cross the bridge, but we must insist that they comply with several conditions for the safety and comfort of our staff,” Gleason said.

All pedestrians and bicyclists must cross the Mackinac Bridge in a vehicle, so the Mackinac Bridge Authority has offered transport services since the bridge opened to traffic in 1957.

The Mackinac Bridge Authority said that before the the program’s suspension, all pedestrians were charged $3.50 each to be driven across the bridge, and that bicyclists were charged $5 for them to be transported across with their bicycle.

The new, increased fee will be $5 for pedestrians, and $15 for bicyclists.

It was reported that an average of 793 pedestrians and 375 bicyclists have used the program annually in recent years.

Before the closure due to the pandemic, the fee for the service was $15 per snowmobile and rider, with additional riders charged $3.50. The new fee will be $20, with additional riders charged $5.

The Mackinac Bridge Authority said that 1,000 snowmobiles have been transported through the service annually in recent years, with roughly four snowmobiles transported per trip.

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