Michigan Bridge Safety Sensor System Could Expand Nationally

can be reached at marcusamick@aol.com
can be reached at marcusamick@aol.com
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The expansion of a three-year sensor project underway in Michigan could help to improve the safety of thousands of bridges around the country. The high-tech project, which is being led by a team of researchers from Michigan State University and Washington University, could also help make needed repairs to bridge structures more cost efficient, as reported in Michigan State’s newsletter, MSU Today.

  • Researchers look to expand first-of-its-kind sensor safety project on the Mackinac Bridge in Michigan.
  • Initially launched in 2016, the expansion project will include the installation of 2,000 sensors on the Michigan bridge.
  • The sensors used in the Mackinac Bridge project are powered solely by traffic vibrations.

A first-of-its-kind sensor system on the Mackinac Bridge in Michigan will be expanded to explore the feasibility of expanding the high-tech safety road wear system to other structures around the U.S.

The expansion includes the installation of 2,000 sensors on the five-mile Michigan bridge, capable of providing millions of continuous data points detailing the stress and loading placed on the structure, by vehicles.

The Mackinac Bridge sensor project will expand to include 20,000 of the small devices. (Photo: MSU)


The sensor project, which is being spearheaded by a team of researchers at Michigan State University (MSU) and Washington State in St. Louis, initially launched in 2016 with 20 prototypes of the tiny devices. Unlike other road safety sensors that often require battery changes or wiring, the Mackinac Bridge project uses sensors powered entirely by traffic vibrations, which eliminates maintenance issues typically tied to sensor power sources.

The more efficient system also enables researchers to gather data from the self-powered sensors, by simply driving over the bridge with a laptop.


According to a 2019 report by the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, 47,052 of America’s 616,087 bridges are rated “structurally deficient.” Expanding the Mackinac Bridge sensor project could help to identify some of those structural bridge elements in dire need of repair and help to expedite some of those fixes in a more cost-efficient manner.

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can be reached at marcusamick@aol.com
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