Anyone interested in buying the Mackinac Bridge? Its perfect for the
person who has everything, or that hard to shop for person on your
There was a flurry of manufactured outrage over an alleged plan to
sell the Mighty Mac last week to help patch the states $1.6 billion
budget hole. The idea seems about as likely to happen as selling 40
acres and a mule to homesteaders on the moon, but its worth passing
Then-candidate for governor Rick Snyder said his comments about
privatizing Michigans assets had been mangled by a columnist at the
Detroit News and he had no plans to sell the Mackinac Bridge if
elected. But opponent Virg Bernero seized on the gaff and held a Save
the Bridge rally in St. Ignace.
Outgoing U.S. Rep. Bart Stupak piled on, wondering what else Snyder
might consider privatizing, adding that selling old Macky would be
The Mackinac Bridge is a true symbol of Michigan, recognized
throughout the world. It belongs to the people of Michigan. To
attempt to sell the bridge to a private company would only lead to
increased tolls on residents and tourists, Stupak said in a release.
Given Mr. Snyders recent comments regarding the privatization of
essential public services, who knows what other important Michigan
resources Mr. Snyder would be willing to sell-off, perhaps our Great
The idea of selling the Mackinac Bridge isnt completely crazy; there
is a precedent: In 1971, the 140-year-old London Bridge over the
Thames River was dismantled, packed on ships and carted off to Lake
Havasu, Arizona, where it stands today, inspiring legions of retirees
in pontoon boats. If something that odd could happen 40 years ago,
then anything is possible.
But it seems rather unlikely that we could sell the Mackinac Bridge
even if we were so inclined. The present toll of $3.50 per car barely
pays for repainting the five-mile bridge and replacing its decks each
year. Many of us trolls and yoopers would just stay home and refuse to
pay if a new owner decided to up the rates.
But lets suppose you could find some oligarch in Russia with money to
burn, or we sold the bridge to China, Inc. For starters, these suckers
probably wouldnt live long enough to see a return on their
Built 53 years ago, the Mackinac Bridge was financed with $100 million
in bonds, which took approximately 30 years to pay off. But we
wouldnt ask for a mere $100 million this time around. Ten years ago,
it was estimated that it would cost $400 million to replace the
bridge, but that seems light in the loafers. And with sentimental
value added in and view property being what it is these days on Lake
Michigan -- come on -- wed surely want at least $10 billion.
But then wed run the risk of someone buying the
Stitcher-of-the-Straits for scrap metal. After all, it contains
94,500 tons of steel, which might be easily transported down the St.
Lawrence Seaway, to be used for building new cars in Japan.
But it would be tough to disassemble: David Steinman, the engineer who
built the Mackinac Bridge, claimed that it could stand up to winds of
365 miles per hour and would likely outlast the pyramids of Egypt.
So lets forget the whole thing and consider some other privatization
schemes as Michigan edges into this bold new world of reinventing
itself. After all, were already selling our groundwater to Nestle,
Inc., and this trend seems likely to continue:
We could sell one-minute ownerships of the bridge to tourists at
$10 a pop with a certificate thats suitable for framing, along with a
discount coupon for rubber tomahawks and toy muskets at Mackinaw City
Sell our freeways to the sheiks of Saudi Arabia or Kuwait, who are
good to the last drop in their vested interest in keeping cars on
Perhaps the Michigan Education Association would be interested in
buying the Michigan Lottery? Some claim thats where the lotterys
education bucks go anyway.
The Chinese worked miracles creating the free trade city of
Shenzhen. It has become one of the wealthiest cities in Asia since its
humble beginnings in the 1970s. Maybe theyd take on a bakers dozen
of depressed Michigan cities as fixer-uppers if the price were right:
Detroit, Flint, Battle Creek, Saginaw, Benton Harbor...
We could also sell the State Legislature if it werent for
unsubstantiated claims that its already been bought and paid for.
Correction: Northern Express inadvertently ran a photograph in last
week‘s Bottoms Up column that was copyrighted by the Traverse City