Oil and water: Searching for truth on the Mackinac pipeline

In a massive drill that Canada-based Enbridge Energy insists will test the highly improbable, more than a dozen boats as well as helicopters and underwater vehicles are to converge next month on the Straits of Mackinac to gauge its potential response to a leak from its oil and natural gas pipeline.

But the exercise is not likely to quiet the debate over the 62-year-old underwater pipeline which, depending on who you ask, is either: Safe, in excellent condition and backed by reliable shutoff procedures in the remote chance of a rupture, or a Great Lakes ecological disaster waiting to happen.

The truth perhaps lies somewhere between the happy-face narrative of the oil company and the doomsday scenario of environmental groups, but gauging the precise condition of the Mackinac pipeline has proven nearly impossible. That’s because while Enbridge has stepped up inspection of its pipeline operations since a disastrous spill in the Kalamazoo River in 2010, it has refused to release the actual results of inspections, citing concerns about confidentiality while also suggesting the data is too difficult to interpret.

The company’s reluctance to disclose data has frustrated environmental groups, who contend that Enbridge’s record of past spills hardly engenders confidence, as well as government officials.

Pipeline problems

Enbridge Energy's 1900-mile U.S. pipeline system has recorded numerous spills since 1988. Some of the biggest (click each marker for details):

Last month, five years after an Enbridge pipeline rupture dumped 840,000 gallons of tar sands oil into the Kalamazoo River system near Marshall, the Michigan Petroleum Task Force called for an independent evaluation into building a pipeline that does not cross Great Lakes waters. It also demanded comprehensive, annual safety and inspection reports from Enbridge (see accompanying story) on the straits pipeline and a binding agreement from Enbridge that it will not transport tar sands crude, which can be particularly corrosive to pipelines, under the straits.

More coverage: Enbridge to Michigan: Trust us

The task force stopped short of demanding the replacement or immediate shutdown of the straits pipeline, though GOP state Attorney General Bill Schuette, who co-chairs the group, declared a pipeline like Line 5 could never be approved today, adding that its "days are numbered."

While the report was often critical of Enbridge, David Holtz, chairman of the Michigan chapter of the Sierra Club, an environmental group, called the recommendations “extremely disappointing.”

“The oil going through the pipeline should be stopped,” Holtz said. “Everything we have heard from experts suggests that it is not safe.”

Whatever the true condition of the aging pipeline, there is little dispute that a spill in the straits would be disastrous for the Great Lakes.

A 2014 University of Michigan study undertook a computer simulation into what could happen with a rupture that lasted 12 hours in the straits. It concluded that a plume of oil would not only coat the shores of Mackinac Island but spread as far west as Beaver Island in Lake Michigan, a distance of 35 miles, and as far southwest as Rogers City in Lake Huron, a distance of 50 miles.

“If you were to pick the worst possible place for an oil spill in the Great Lakes, this would be it,” said David Schwab of the U-M Water Center, which engages researchers, policymakers, and nonprofit groups to support freshwater restoration and preservation.

Nothing to worry about

The hypothetical spill is one that Enbridge said it doesn't foresee happening in the real world. The company maintains that the Straits pipeline is in “excellent condition,” safeguarded by regular inspections and backed by rigorous shutoff procedures to minimize damage from any spill.

According to a statement on an Enbridge web page: “Our Line 5 Straits of Mackinac crossing has never experienced a leak in more than 60 years of operation ‒ and we're working hard to keep it that way….”

Enbridge spokesman Jason Manshum said the firm inspects the exterior of the pipeline at least every two years, using divers and remote-controlled underwater cameras. He said Enbridge also employs standard industry inspection devices that travel through the pipe to measure and record irregularities that may indicate corrosion, cracks, dents or other defects.

“In the unlikely event of a leak, the maximum amount of time it will take to shut down the line is 10 minutes, once a leak is detected,” he said.

The company doubled the number of employees and contractors dedicated to detecting pipeline leaks, added staff to its pipeline control center and revised its shutdown procedures.

“When one or two leak triggers are identified, the controller has 10 minutes to analyze the information and conclusively rule out the possibility of a leak,” Manshum said. “If the possibility of a leak cannot be irrefutably ruled out within 10 minutes of the first leak trigger being identified, then the line is shut down, sectionalized and isolated.”

Manshum added that Enbridge has no intent to transport tar sands crude, which is generally considered more hazardous to transport than the light crude oil and liquid natural gas that now flow through Line 5.

Perhaps in a nod to mounting public pressure, company officials opened the door this week to the pipeline eventually being replaced. Speaking with reporters on Monday, Bradley Shamla, vice president for U.S. operations, said if anything “suggesting replacement" of the pipeline was needed, "we would be going down that route."

Enbridge’s record

Completed in 1953, Line 5 carries oil out of Canada 645 miles from Superior, Wis., east across the Upper Peninsula before dropping south across the Straits of Mackinac at depths of up to 270 feet just west of the Mackinac Bridge. A 30-inch pipe nearly all its length, it splits into two 20-inch sections a thousand feet apart at the straits.

With a .8-inch exterior wall thickness, encrusted in places with zebra mussel and seaweed, the twin pipelines transport some 23 million gallons of oil and liquid gas a day through the 4.6-mile crossing. The pipeline then heads southeast through the Lower Peninsula before crossing the St. Clair River into Sarnia, Ontario.

Beth Wallace, a consultant to the Ann Arbor-based Great Lakes Regional Center of the National Wildlife Federation, said Enbridge’s track record for transparency and pipeline safety does not inspire confidence.

She noted that the state task force concluded that Enbridge has not fully shared its inspection and safety information on the Straits pipeline, failed to maintain underwater structural supports as the state required of it back in 1953, and failed to acknowledge the potential threat posed by zebra and quagga mussels, which secrete an acid that can be corrosive to steel.

“They say to trust us, that it's safe,” Wallace said, “but their actions don't live up to their words.”

Independent experts say Enbridge has contributed to public skepticism by releasing only summaries of its pipeline inspections, not the raw data.

“From what I’ve seen they’ve run the right tools, but I can’t tell you what the results are because I haven’t seen them," Richard Kuprewicz, a pipeline safety expert, told Michigan Radio, echoing the frustrations of the state task force report.

Adding to doubts, in 2013, a NWF-backed diving expedition to inspect the Straits pipeline found that some support structures had fallen away and that the pipeline in places was covered in debris and mussels. In 2014, Enbridge agreed to add additional support structures so they would be no more than 75 feet apart, as specified by the easement the state granted to Enbridge.

Wallace also is co-author of a 2012 NWF report that charted a series of Enbridge leaks, in addition to the infamous Marshall spill, that date back to 1988. They include incidents throughout its Lakehead pipeline network, 1,900 miles of U.S. pipeline that includes Line 5:

  • 1988: A corroded section of pipeline in Macomb County ruptured, dumping 320,000 gallons of crude oil into the Clinton River. Pipeline workers used propane torches to burn oil off the river surface and its banks.
  • 1991: Northwest of Duluth, Minn., a rupture spilled 1.7 million gallons of oil. According to state records some 4 million gallons of oil had by then spilled from the pipeline in 16 incidents, including the 1991 rupture, since the early 1970s.
  • 1999: Near the Upper Peninsula town of Crystal Falls, a natural gas and oil pipeline failed, spilling 226,000 gallons of oil and natural gas into a marsh. According to the NWF report on Enbridge, Enbridge officials ignited the natural gas vapor cloud to keep it from spreading, touching off a fire that burned eight acres. Investigators say the pipe failed because it rested on a rock formation, weakening it over time.
  • 2002: A 34-inch pipeline ruptured northwest of Duluth, Minn., dumping 250,000 gallons of oil into a bog. With much of the oil pooled on the ground, officials ignited it, sending up a mile-high smoke plume.
  • 2007: Work crews preparing to extend a new pipeline struck an existing pipeline in northwest Wisconsin, spilling what is later determined to be more than 200,000 gallons of oil. State officials find evidence some of the oil contaminated the local water table.

Overall, according to the NWF report, Enbridge pipelines in Canada and the United States had more than 800 leaks between 1999 and 2010. Manshum, the Enbridge spokesman, paints a more benign portrait, saying Enbridge had 559 reportable releases in its facilities in the United States and Canada and 107 outside its facilities. He said “most” releases were less than a barrel in volume and readily contained.

Enbridge’s safety record, he said, is above the industry average.

Memories fresh from Marshall

Residents of Marshall, east of Battle Creek, have vivid memories of what happened the evening of July 25, 2010, and in the days afterward.

Just before 6 p.m., an alarm went off at the Enbridge pipeline control center in Edmonton, Alberta, signaling a drop in pressure at the Marshall pump station. About three hours later, Calhoun County dispatchers began receiving calls from residents reporting the odor of natural gas. Firefighters dispatched to the scene could not locate the source.

It was not until after 11 a.m. the following morning – 17 hours after the initial alarm – that Enbridge shut off the leaking pipeline after being alerted by a Consumers Energy employee on the scene. By then, it had spilled more than 800,000 gallons of tar sands crude into Talmadge Creek, which empties into the Kalamazoo River. Oil was subsequently detected along a 38-mile stretch of the river.

Enbridge estimates its cleanup costs at $1.2 billion, including a $75 million settlement with the state for wetland and stream restoration and other improvements. It still faces a likely fine from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

“They say to trust us, that it’s safe. But their actions don’t live up to their words.” – Beth Wallace, NWF consultant

A 2012 report by the National Transportation Safety Board concluded that Enbridge knew five years before the Marshall rupture that there were cracks in the section of pipeline that failed. It also faulted Enbridge pipeline control officials for failing to responding to numerous alarms, noting they mistakenly “interpreted them as indications of an incompletely filled pipeline” and continued pumping oil through the line.

In testimony about the spill, NTSB Chairwoman Deborah Hersman said: “Learning about Enbridge’s poor handling of the rupture, you can’t help but think of the Keystone Kops.”

Ten days before the Marshall spill, Richard Adams, vice president of U.S. operations for liquid pipelines, testified before a Congressional subcommittee about Enbridge's capacity to handle a leak.

“Our response time from our control center can be almost instantaneous…,” he said.

Environmentalists press cause

On Aug. 5, a dozen Michigan environmental and citizen groups sent a letter to Schuette, Gov. Rick Snyder and the directors of the DEQ and Department of Natural Resources demanding immediate action to shut down the straits pipeline.

“Anything less puts the Great Lakes at an unacceptable risk...” it stated.

Asked to comment, Snyder spokesman Dave Murray said the governor expected “to address recommendations included in the (task force) report quickly.” He did not say whether Snyder would press for a shutdown.

Andrea Bitely, spokesperson for Schuette, said “the reason we aren’t calling for an immediate shutdown is because we have to find an alternate path for that oil, which provides oil and natural gas to people throughout our region, and an immediate shutdown could cause that oil to be transported via freighter on our lakes, something that doesn’t appeal to most folks, either.”

Enbridge spokesman Manshum said the firm learned from the 2010 Marshall spill, calling it “one of the bleakest and most humbling chapters in our company’s 65-year history.”

As a result, Manshum said, it has taken measures to ensure an accident like that will not happen again.

But Enbridge’s claims have not softened the worries of Holtz of the Sierra Club.

Even if Enbridge succeeds in shutting down a leak in just 10 minutes, he said, that could still leave the Straits with a spill of some 320,000 gallons.

“That’s not reassuring,” Holtz said. “The only way to protect the Great Lakes from a catastrophic spill is to shut off the oil going through the straits.”

Facts matter. Trust matters. Journalism matters.

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Thu, 08/27/2015 - 8:16am
What is he physical or financial impediment to putting a pipeline inside a tunnel beneath the bed of the Straights? Wouldn't such an arrangement minimize everyone's concerns? Is it too costly? Or can it not be done safely or is it too expensive to do? Or is the underground digging of a route physically impossible to do?
Wed, 09/09/2015 - 9:47am
There is a valley that a portion of this pipeline literally "floats" over (and under stress from the water currents). I'm unsure how deep that valley descends. A tunnel would have to dig to a depth below this valley. Also, there are interconnected waterways that exist underground. Underground waterways are just as valuable, if not more valuable, as above ground waterways. Northern Michigan is just a wrong place for a pipeline to exist.
Thu, 08/27/2015 - 9:17am
"Just before 6 p.m., an alarm went off at the Enbridge pipeline control center in Edmonton, Alberta, signaling a drop in pressure at the Marshall pump station. About three hours later, Calhoun County dispatchers began receiving calls from residents reporting the odor of natural gas. Firefighters dispatched to the scene could not locate the source. It was not until after 11 a.m. the following morning – 17 hours after the initial alarm – that Enbridge shut off the leaking pipeline after being alerted by a Consumers Energy employee on the scene." That does not inspire confidence that the pipeline at the Mackinaw Bridge would be shut down in 10 minutes.
Wed, 09/09/2015 - 9:51am
You are exactly correct. Past performance is an indicator of future performance.
Thu, 08/27/2015 - 10:00am
Is it true that the oil begins in Canada and ends in Canada, and they are using the underwater route because it is easier than getting permissions to go overground?
Thu, 08/27/2015 - 11:54am
That is true. Alberta CA oil goes to Superior, WI, then across the UP and the Straits and on over to refineries in Sarnia. Enbridge is a Canadian company. It made sense in 1953 to do that, because it was still the post-war boom and highways and bridges and tunnels were being built with abandon across the entire US. (And that's the infrastructure that's starting to fail, another story.) I don't fault the concept of doing that way back when because we didn't know what we do now. But now that we do know, the risk of a rupture is just too high, and the benefit to the US is nil.
Thu, 08/27/2015 - 10:11am
The EPA is stating Enbridge is not trustworthy. Granted their oil spill "performance" has been dubious at best. However, just ask check the latest EPA chemical spill out west, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado for their lack of forthright activities. EPA stonewalling to this day. A pox on both.
Thu, 08/27/2015 - 10:22am
1. How much oil goes through the line in 10 minutes? 320,000 gallons! 2. I'd like to see them have their "emergency drill" when a gale is blowing through the Straights at 100 MPH 3. .........Attorney General Bill Schuette, who co-chairs the group, declared a pipeline like Line 5 could never be approved today, adding that its “days are numbered.”.......... Only until he gets a fat campaign check from Embridge for his gubernatorial campaign.
Ned S. Curtis
Thu, 08/27/2015 - 11:50am
Exactly, blufox! Thank you for that!!
Thu, 08/27/2015 - 11:17am
Together with three other colleagues, I have introduced legislation that will require periodic inspections, better emergency preparedness and anchoring of the pipelines. These are obvious first steps to secure the pipeline while we work to re-route the traffic. HB 4511-4514 were introduced last year and we couldn't even get a hearing in the conservative MI House. Now, eight months into 2015, pipeline safety legislation still languishes in committee.
Thu, 08/27/2015 - 3:31pm
With a dysfunctional, Gerrymander "government", no one should be surprised with the lack of any action. Fix the pipeline, fix the roads, fix ANYTHING! Ha! Have an affair? Now that will result in INSTANT action.
Brett Smith
Thu, 08/27/2015 - 7:58pm
Jeff, thanks for your efforts, but with all due respect, more inspections, more anchors, etc., are not the answer. The fact is, allowing this 62-year old pipeline to put Michigan's greatest natural asset at such a tremendous risk is simply too high. What's more, in light of climate change, increasing drought and how the value of water is quickly becoming greater than oil, why are we so foolish as to play Russian Roulette with this amazingly valuable resource? It's insanity. I'm baffled why our "leaders" don't recognize this.
Jeff Irwin
Sat, 08/29/2015 - 11:30am
I don't disagree. We should shut down the pipeline. In the meantime, while the complications are worked out, we should impose some smart regulations.
Sat, 08/29/2015 - 6:48pm
The delays may be influence by the approach being taken. Will the requirements be prescriptive of performance based? The reality is that how legislation impacts performance can have significant on whether it is achieved. If you believe that only the state can be trusted then you have built a wall between the regulated and the regulators, if you believe that it takes legal action to drive the regulated then you have built the wall higher and wider, and if you can only see the risk then all means to work around the wall have been removed. Taht appraoch is effectively trying to regulated those idealing with the risk into extinction. If you want real long lasting success I hope the legislation involves all parties in a meaningful way. The idea of shutting anything down simply because of fear, ignoring history, is a sure way to create a chasm between people with different roles and repsonsibilities, creating a barrier to performance success.
Thu, 08/27/2015 - 11:17am
Thanks for bringing much needed attention to this issue. For even more unsettling information about the pipeline, check out this documentary, called "This video about the aging pipeline below the Great Lakes should be this summer’s top horror flick." Here's the link: http://bit.ly/1NCE604
John S.
Thu, 08/27/2015 - 11:43am
As Wallace argued, a company like Enbridge with a checkered safety record should be judged by its actions, not by the words of its spokespersons.
Thu, 08/27/2015 - 11:52am
If Enbridge had nothing to hide, the inspection data would've already been released. Did they pat you on the head as they said "It's too difficult for you to understand."
Thu, 08/27/2015 - 12:08pm
I can agree in one aspect to a danger. Nothing lasts forever. However, all the 'what if this happens and what if that happens' scares are never blunted with 'what if it doesn't?' Someday the Big Mac bridge will fail; Oh My! Now, if one wants to speak of real and present dangers, just look at life where no pipeline is used. Keystone is not there. Trains haul it overland every day. How many derailments and huge fires have resulted all over the country? Above ground it is a given that things will go wrong and spills and fires abound. I don't see the worry warriors putting their wallets where there mouth is. They claim doom and gloom without cognizant research and answers other than the elimination. Why don't the NWF and the others band together and assist in remediation and changes using some of the tens of millions they rake in annually for an assist to protect what they claim is so important? There are dozens of them to share in that. Join the company with funds to protect, coordinate and share the costs for what they want. Or, put in your own safer transportation system and reap the supposed huge profits to do more good. Suspend a new pipeline from underneath the bridge? If they truly wanted significant changes they would participate in more than attacks and 'what if's'. Nope..........Make claims, demand court action, fines, condemn and attack only. Is it a cause for new revenue or something worthy of investment?
Thu, 08/27/2015 - 12:10pm
There was a spill in late July of this year in Alberta. While not an Enbridge line, it was a new, state of the art line, and the highly touted 'fail safe' detection system did not work. The spill was larger than the one in Marshall/Kalamazoo, but attracted less attention because it was in a remote area of Alberta. Why should we expose our Great Lakes to such a risk?
Chuck Fellows
Thu, 08/27/2015 - 12:17pm
The pipeline is 62 years old and has paid for itself many times over. Good business practice says it should be replaced. Common sense says it should have been replaced a long time ago. Who is the ultimate refiner of this product and who are the retailers that sell it? Who is this company's largest single customer?
Fri, 08/28/2015 - 1:38am
Chuck, Just because a house is 100 years old would not be the right reason to tear it down and replace it. So why should it be that based on a calendar that any facility should simply be demolished and sent to the landfill? For a pipeline it would be even more disruptive because a new one would have to be built in parallel so services was not interrupted.
Tue, 09/01/2015 - 2:01pm
Duane, a pipeline in parallel? Build another one under the Straits? I don't think so. It's Embridge's problem of how to deliver their customers' product to market, not Michigan or its citizens.
Tue, 09/01/2015 - 11:39pm
Gary, Why? Do we know that a new pipeline will do any better than the existing pipeline? Does new always mean better? What if a new one would be less than the existing one? If a catastrophic release is the primary concern then why aren't we talking about what can cause that to happen, and how will it happen before we claim to know what should be done? I would like to hear some discussion about what the risks are and how they might happen so we can be more confident that what ever is used is addressing/mitigating the risks. Simply saying its old and replace it doesn't tell us anything.
Fri, 09/04/2015 - 3:10pm
Spot on Chuck !!!! It also makes good business sense !! Better an ounce of prevention then 5 billion pounds of cure!
Thu, 08/27/2015 - 12:19pm
We should trust Enbridge? The information is too complicated for us? What is that about?
Thu, 08/27/2015 - 1:23pm
And where are our representatives? Good lord what do they need to step up to the plate.
Thu, 08/27/2015 - 3:07pm
The words trust and risk should never be joined to any of our Great or inland lakes. Water is the most important resource on the planet.
Thu, 08/27/2015 - 8:57pm
The 840,000 gallon Kalamazoo spill number is nonsense. They have cleaned up over a million gallons and they are still not done.
Fri, 08/28/2015 - 1:30am
The disappointing thing about this reporting is that it makes no effort to help readers learn the right questions about the pipeline and other risks. It seems only able to find people that give opinions without helping readers learn. There is nothing to help readers make their own judgements. Ms. Wallace is a good example, she wants access to all of Enbridge’s information, she wants transparency, but she doesn’t consider the risks to such transparency. The EPA wanted transparency of the worst case scenarios for highly hazardous chemicals, they wanted them posted online. EPA not only could see nothing wrong with it, they even denied that terrorists could use it. Has Ms. Wallace thought about the risk if she gets what she wants, Mr. Roelofs doesn’t seem to see risks? The reality is that that the knowledge that academia has, that government has, that consultants have is built on a foundation of what the practitioners, the people who created these systems and keep improving them have provided. I believe the public needs to be involved, they need to be provided the information. I believe they need to have some help identifying the right questions to ask and how to listen to the answers. The public should have the information (risks, practices, experiences) presented with a person knowledgeable in the specific activity (pipeline and chemicals) so their questions are addressed with real understanding and descriptions of practical applications not political posturing. There are a few key questions that can open up real understanding and can hold the operator (in this case the pipeline) to real scrutiny and if necessary valued action. But we won’t get that from this article, I wonder if Mr. Roelofs tried to learn what those questions are.
David Zeman
Fri, 08/28/2015 - 8:54am
Duane, As Ted's report made clear, there are some things we (the public, and by extension journalists) simply can't get to the bottom of, because Enbridge will not release all of its data from its inspections, and because the state says it still doesn't have the expertise to evaluate the data it has been given, a shortcoming that Michigan Radio in particular has been dogged in pursuing, to its credit. Those in favor of more transparency have also argued that the homeland security concern is a bit of a canard since the location of the pipeline has already been made public. In the absence of full disclosure from the company, Bridge has tried to get past the rhetoric from both the company and the environmental groups by examining Enbridge's lengthy history and previous safety promises, by citing independent consultants, and looking at what evidence is already in the public record. Short of hiring Edward Snowden as an Enbridge I.T. consultant, I'm not sure how Ted could have produced a more informed, up-to-date explanation of the safety hazard (or lack of same) posed by Line 5. But, as always, thanks for reading. David Zeman Bridge Editor
Ned S Curtis
Fri, 08/28/2015 - 2:38pm
Ted Roelofs' article was very good journalism. Enbridge and our legislators are being secretive and unresponsive.
Sat, 08/29/2015 - 12:03am
Mr. Zeman, I apologize for not effectively making my point. It was not about uncovering secrets at Enbridge. I was hoping for information that helps readers to be better equipped to understand and affect change with their understanding. The right questions are a tool for readers to use when they talk to a company about their practices and risks, when evaluating others comments, or when reading an article. Ask and listen are a powerful means for people to better understand events, more effectively evaluate what is being said, and helps them impact future practices. The questions I would use are to get past the rhetoric, to help relate facts, and to prevent similar events, they are not about secrets. I would have thought your initial reaction would have been curiosity [what the questions could be] instead your remarks seem defensive (akin to Enbridge’s perceived response). Such a response can leave an impression of self-doubt or lack of openness. My view of Bridge readers are that they want more than the headline and political opinions, they want something they can use to make their own judgements. "homeland security concern is a bit of a canard ," that is a disappointing reflex. Your canard is a real risk has to be addressed. A side note, one of the best (world recognized) resources for risk assessment is in Michigan, even government agencies recommend their approach. I phone call, a question or two, and a bit of listening could provide some very helpful information.
Steve Dobson
Fri, 08/28/2015 - 9:43pm
Timely, balanced and very insightful analysis of one of the biggest environmental challenges we face. Glad to see the pressure on Enbridge is mounting. I count on the Bridge for in-depth reportage like this, and I'm never disappointed.
David Zeman
Fri, 08/28/2015 - 11:01pm
Thank you, Steve, for reading Bridge.
Paul Donelson
Sat, 09/17/2016 - 5:00pm
I believe it is time for Michigan and the U.S. Government to consider building a tunnel under the Straits of Mackinaw that could carry cars and possibly railroad freight. There are reasons for this. The bridge is beginning to age. The bridge needs lots of painting and resurfacing that a tunnel would not need. The bridge is difficult to use in the winter during snow storms as well as year around when there are strong winds. There are also many people who are afraid of using the tunnel because of its height above the water. The bridge cannot carry rail traffic. A tunnel, on the other hand, would not need to be repainted constantly, would be immune from the effects of snowstorms and wind, and would be enclosed so that persons with agoraphobia would not fear using it. The risk of losing a small car over the rail of a tunnel (like a Yugo!!) would be erased! And ... if the tunnel was used to carry an oil pipeline through it, any leak from the pipeline would be immediately detected and rendered safe for clean-up. The technology for building a tunnel under the Straits has improved immensely over the past 50 years, with many tunnels exceeding the length of a Straits tunnel having been built, including the Chunnel from Great Britain to France, through mountains in Switzerland and across distances between islands in Japan.