ST. IGNACE, Mich. — The Mackinac Bridge Authority is committed to preserving and maintaining the State of Michigan's single largest asset and one of the world's largest suspension bridges.
Up until 2016, whenever pieces of the bridge needed to be replaced, the worn down parts were scrapped, but that's no longer happening.
People can own a piece of Michigan's most iconic structure, thanks to a handful of online auctions, which have often commanded bids for more than $5,000.
"We go out on the bridge every year and inspect all the pieces," said Julie Neph, who is the Mackinac Bridge Chief Engineer. "We take the larger pieces of grating out and replace them with new ones every year."
The old, rusty ones end up being stacked near the shoreline in St. Ignace.
Each grate is 38-feet long by 5-feet wide and weighs 4,000 lbs.
"It's amazing how much people want these two ton pieces," Neph said.
The grates make up the inside lane on both sides of the bridge. Each one has several holes, which helps with the aerodynamics when the wind kicks up.
When driving on them, they make a loud, screeching sound, which has been known to make many travelers uncomfortable.
"You kind of feel a little bit of a pull," Neph says, describing what its like to ride on the grates.
Neph says every spring and fall, they collect enough pieces to put up for auction, and believe it or not, every single one of the massive grates get sold.
"Those sections will go for anywhere between $3,000 and $5,000 apiece," said Neph.
Once the auctions end, the winners are notified and it's up to them to figure out the best mode of transportation to get the heavy piece home.
"We'll load it for them," Neph said. "They're on their own when it comes to transporting it safely down the road."
One of the spring auctions ended on March 25, but Neph says there will be more auctions as the year goes on.
"None of the auctions are scheduled; they're random," added Neph. "Those interested need to bookmark the auction website and check it periodically because the auctions can go live anytime."
The Mackinac Bridge auction website can be accessed directly by clicking HERE. Once the page populates, type 'Mackinac Bridge' in the search bar.
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