Building Mackinac Bridge

Challenges and Innovation in Civil and Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences SPRING 2021 Seminar Series


Building Mackinac Bridge

Paul Giroux, Dist.M.ASCE, Senior Estimating Manager, Kiewit Infrastructure West Co., civil engineering historian

3:55 p.m.–4:55 p.m., April 29, 2021   |   Zoom

Contact Diane Westerink for Zoom link

In the aftermath of the 1940 Tacoma Narrows bridge collapse, the safety of existing long-span suspension bridges and the viability of future long-span suspension bridges was very much in question. Leading bridge engineers of the day studied and debated the collapse. It was clear that the next generation of suspension bridges would face tremendous scrutiny.

By 1950 the citizens of northern Michigan had dreamt of a bridge across the Straits of Mackinac for over 70 years. Finally, in 1950 the Mackinac Bridge Authority was established to build a bridge. Success was far from certain in the harsh environment of the Straits of Mackinac. The four-mile-wide Strait would require record-setting foundations, in addition to superstructure design and construction. Leading the design effort was legendary bridge designer David B. Steinman. Construction in the harsh environment of the Strait required extraordinary men, machines, and methods. After starting construction in 1954, the bridge opened to traffic in the fall of 1957.

The Mackinac Bridge is an important chapter in the history of bridge design and construction. This presentation will bring the story of the Mackinac Bridge to life, providing a unique learning opportunity.

Upon attending this seminar you will be able to understand why the Mackinac Bridge is still considered one of the greatest bridge-building stories. Attendees will also understand the challenges of building the Mackinac Bridge, the unique innovative construction methods employed, and the importance of the Mackinac Bridge to the growth and development of twentieth-century Northern Michigan.

Raymond “Paul” Giroux received his B.S. in Construction Engineering from Iowa State University in 1979. For the past four decades, he has been with Kiewit Corporation, working on a wide variety of heavy civil engineering megaprojects throughout the United States. He played a key role in notable projects such as the Fort McHenry Tunnel in Baltimore, several projects on the Big Dig in Boston including the new Zakim/Bunker Hill Bridge, the new San Francisco Oakland Bay Bridge East Span, and many other projects.

He has been an active member of several national committees for the American Society of Civil Engineering and the Transportation Research Board. In 2008, he was the ASCE Chairman and featured speaker for Brooklyn Bridge 125th Celebration in New York and, in 2010, he presented the closing speech at the ASCE Hoover Dam 75th Anniversary Symposium in Las Vegas. In 2012, he served as the ASCE Chairman and principal lecturer for the Golden Gate Bridge 75th Anniversary. In 2014, he was a featured speaker at Global Engineering Conference to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Panama Canal. In 2019, he was a featured speaker at the Transcontinental Railroad 150th Symposium.

He has authored several bridge design and civil engineering history papers and is also an active public speaker, having presented over 250 lectures and seminars at over 75 engineering schools. Additionally, he has provided over a hundred seminars at engineering conferences and public venues. He was the recipient of the American Society of Civil Engineers’ Civil Engineering History and Heritage Award for 2013 and the G. Brooks Earnest Award in 2015. He was elected a Distinguished Member of ASCE in 2016, received the ASCE Roebling Award for Construction Engineering in 2017, and was inducted into the Iowa State University Construction Engineering Hall of Fame in 2018.

Contact Diane Westerink for Zoom link.