Bills to roll back Mackinac Bridge tolls vetoed

| Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Legislation designed to roll back recently raised tolls on the Mackinac Bridge in Michigan has been vetoed by Gov. Jennifer Granholm, according to media reports.

SB464, sponsored by Sen. James Allen, R-Traverse City, was the lead bill in a five-bill package. In addition to rolling back higher tolls, it would have frozen the cost of crossing the bridge until 2006-2007. Granholm vetoed four parts of the five-bill package, including SB464, which would have dedicated $5.9 million in state funds to the Mackinac Bridge Authority to pay for bridge repairs – the primary justification for the toll hikes.

The only part of the package Granholm signed, according to The Detroit Free Press, was a bill that would have exempted emergency vehicles from tolls on the bridge.

Fares for big rigs jumped from $2 per axle to $3 per axle May 1. Fees for most other vehicles rose from $1.50 to $2.50. The commuter rate went from $1.25 to $1.50. The Ann Arbor News reported that the toll hike was designed to pay in part for a $100 million project that included sandblasting the structure for the first time since it opened in 1957 and then repainting it.

The legislation passed the House July 2 and the Senate July 16. Rep. Scott Shackleton, R-Sault Ste. Marie, the primary sponsor, told The News residents in the area around the bridge would look at the veto and conclude "we're treated differently by the state."

"If this bridge were somehow between Detroit and Dearborn, there's no doubt in my mind that it would be free," Shackleton told the newspaper. The sentiment had been echoed in previous statements from the bill’s backers.

“In the coming years, the Mighty Mac will need some repairs requiring substantial funding, which should not come at the expense of area residents, tourists or businesses,” state Sen. Jason Allen, R-Traverse City, co-sponsor of the legislation, said in a recent statement.

The Mackinac Bridge connects the upper and lower peninsulas of Michigan and divides Lake Michigan from Lake Huron. It is the largest suspension bridge in the Western Hemisphere and the third longest in the world.

Ironically, Granholm will cross the bridge next week with thousands of other pedestrians as part of an annual celebration, according to The News. Whether she’ll pay any toll to cross is not known.

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