Monitoring the Mighty Mac

December 2007

Editor’s Note: Our December issue story on monitoring Michigan’s Mackinac Bridge resulted in numerous letters to our office; readers enjoyed reading about the public-private partnerships that were coordinated to complete the complicated task of monitoring a suspension bridge in real-time. Most every reader has requested more technical details about the project and the results of the observations, and information about future test plans. We are planning a followup article in the spring.

Your article on the Mackinac Bridge was fascinating. The monitoring of structures, dams and buildings is fascinating to me. I thoroughly enjoyed this article and would like to see a “Part II” in which the author describes more of the specifics of the results.

Michael R. Dwyer, PS


I would like to express how much I enjoyed your recent article on the monitoring of the Mackinac Bridge. The ability to track the movement of a bridge in near real-time is a major advancement in structural analysis. The safety component associated with such technology is excellent. I would like to see more information on this project and some further technical analysis of the data.

Thank you for the fine job you do publishing and editing POB magazine.

Robin Broemer


I too was very interested in the recent article about the monitoring of the Mackinac Bridge. Structural monitoring is an excellent application for GPS, and the fact that Michigan is a leader in network RTK and Continuously Operating Reference Stations, it only makes sense that GPS be used for a project such as monitoring the Mackinac Bridge. I would also be very interested in reading a followup article that goes into some further discussion of the technical details of the project.

I’m a regular reader of POB magazine, and would like to thank you for the article. I look forward to reading the followup article.

Eric S. Barden, PS


I read the article posted December 1 on POB Online about the monitoring of the Mighty Mac. This article is very interesting to me as I can relate to it in many ways. Here at Spicer Group, I am one of a few guys that have a pretty intimate understanding of Leica GPS and GPS in general, and outside of work I do a lot of camping, hunting and traveling around the U.P. [Michigan’s Upper Peninsula] every year, so crossing back and forth is something very common. When I cross the bridge the weather is usually in my favor and provides an outstanding view, but there have been a few of the not-so-good times, too. When crossing, I tend to forget that this bridge is constantly moving, and monitoring its movement is something I agree to be very important to the longevity and safety of this bridge. This article outlined and touched on what was done between MBA, MDOT, Leica [Geosystems] and General Positioning LLC for this initial monitoring project and stated that results were better then expected. I would like to see more of the technical data, results and possible future ideas or plans to monitor the bridge. Thanks and keep up the great articles.

Andy Schafer, LSIT


My partner Bruce Mitchell and I saw the article on the Mackinac Bridge monitoring project. We would like to express our thanks to the editorial staff of POB for publishing this fine article and bringing to light the importance of monitoring large structures including dams, bridges, buildings and reservoirs. We in the surveying community have for years expressed our concern about the stability and long-term health of such structures, and as a result of your fine article, possibly something can be done with regards to the engineering laws that will mandate the full scale implementation of such programs.

We greatly appreciate the excellent work you all do on POB magazine and look forward to its arrival each month. Please keep up the good work.

Edward Morse


I was pleased to read the article about monitoring the Mackinac Bridge in the December issue of POB and look forward to possibly another article with the results of the observations. The bridge failure in Minnesota is a good example of what happens when high demand for service and aging infrastructure are combined. The ability to measure precisely at short intervals is an effective tool to monitor the structural health of large structures and predict future problems.

Paul J. Privacky, PS



November 2007

I would like to respond to a couple of statements made by Mike Perreault in his letter in the November 2007 issue of POB. Mike cites the college degree required by some states as a major reason the profession is lacking the ability to recruit more people into surveying. I have been in the surveying business for over 30 years and became licensed in 1990. I now work for a company that encourages education and even reimburses tuition fees for qualified programs. At age 49, I am about to complete my civil engineering degree, which I “started” many years ago. The reason for requiring a college degree is because our industry wanted to be recognized as professionals like our CE brothers and sisters. Like it or not, the public perception of a professional is of one who has completed higher education and achieved a college degree. Without that degree, we are simply technicians that have obtained a considerable amount of expertise in a specific field. There is nothing wrong with that! On the other hand, calling me a professional is not going to increase my salary, nor is it going to change public opinion of what we do.

Mike also stated that the path to licensure has been torn down. Most states that require degrees to sit for the exam have made the requirements incrementally over a period of several years. This allowed those who were actively seeking licensure time to work on the various experience requirements or go back to school. I believe those who were serious about becoming licensed did what it took before degree requirements became law. I am puzzled by the statement, “Even states that allow someone without a degree and many years of experience [to practice] are reluctant to allow them to sit for the exam.” In my state of Kansas, if you are qualified by statute to take the LS exam and complete the application, there is no reluctance by the Board of Technical Professions. A person with no degree gets the same letter as one with a PhD--an invitation to take the exam. And we all take the same test, in the same room, at the same time.

I agree that a college degree is not required to do the work of a licensed land surveyor. As with any field there is extensive training and practical experience needed that will develop an individual to become an expert. But, as a hiring manager in my company, I have seen the level of education in young people rising to a point that it is difficult to get an interview without a college degree.

My point is that if we in the surveying industry want to be looked upon as professionals, we need to start acting like [them]. Hold yourself to a professional code of ethics in bidding, execution of the survey and collecting payment. Dress like a professional. I don’t see lawyers wearing sleeveless tee-shirts and cut-offs in the courtroom. I doubt they attend annual bar association conferences in torn jeans, muddy boots and ball caps. The power to persuade public opinion and increase the value of the service we provide is in our hands, not the legislature’s.

Jim Goff, LS


The ideas and opinions expressed by our readers do not necessarily reflect those of POB. Send your thoughts to the editor at