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MSU alumnus Cole Cavalieri is the new chief engineer for the Mackinac Bridge Authority

Cole Cavalieri, Chief Engineer, Mackinac Bridge Authority
Sara J. Martin
Cole Cavalieri, Chief Engineer, Mackinac Bridge Authority

MSU College of Engineering alumnus Cole Cavalieri - Class of 2014 in civil engineering – is the new chief engineer for the Mackinac Bridge Authority.

“There are a lot of dedicated men and women who keep the bridge going day to day, whether it’s in the toll booths or working underneath it. As the engineer of the bridge, my job is really to maintain the Mackinac Bridge, both through our own in-house workers and contractors we hire to do bigger projects. Inspecting the bridge is a big part of what we do. I’m honored to have the role and join this esteemed group that maintains it.”

Cavalieri says he’s been just about everywhere on the bridge and never tires of the amazing views at the top of the bridge. “When you’re going up one of the tunnels to the top, it’s kind of like you’re going through a submarine. Then suddenly when you come out through the top, it’s like the whole world is around you. It’s quite incredible. The Straits area is such a beautiful area, and there’s no better view than on top of one of the towers overlooking it. It’s the best job in the world.”

Cavalieri describes his career path from MSU to the Mackinac Bridge Authority. And he talks about why he chose MSU for college and how his Spartan experience helped prepare him for this role. He came from a long line of Spartans, including his grandfather, who had to take a ferry to get to the Lower Peninsula and on to East Lansing. And Cole has three siblings who also attended MSU.

“MSU was helpful to me, both as a student and as a person by putting me out of my comfort zone. MSU opened the world for me. As a Yooper, my first class at MSU was in a lecture hall with more students than my high school had. I like the diversity and people at MSU. The course work was, of course, beneficial and made you work in teams.” His advice for today’s students is to get real-world experience and interact more with your professors.

Cavalieri talks about some of his short- and long-term goals for the bridge and the challenges and opportunities involved in pursuing those goals.

“The bridge is in good condition. The original designers and builders did a magnificent job. It’s an incredible structure. And if it’s not broken, don’t fix it. It’s mostly a lot of rehab that we have planned in the near future to keep it in the best condition it can be. We have a couple of contracted projects coming up. There are a few things we’re working on just to get the bridge from fair condition back to good condition.

“We have some bigger obstacles coming down the road, including a full deck replacement. Nothing lasts forever, and that’s true of our infrastructure. The bridge is 65. So, in about 10 years, we’ll be beginning that deck replacement project, and that will be a big undertaking. When we do get to that point, we’ll not only be fixing it up but setting up the bridge for success for a long time.

“The bridge speaks for itself as far as being the icon it is for Michigan. And I think in a lot of ways Michigan didn’t become whole until November 1, 1957, when the Mackinac Bridge opened. I take my role very seriously as I approach this job. To me it’s important to not only maintain the structure but to keep it going for a long time because it really is invaluable to Michiganders.

“The Mackinac Bridge has been an important bridge in the history of civil engineering across the world, too. I often hear from other engineers from around the world as we do different studies. It’s really revered. I’m really looking forward to working with the other members of the Mackinac Bridge Authority to bring the Mackinac Bridge into the next generation.”

MSU Today airs Saturdays at 5 p.m. and Sundays at 5 a.m. on WKAR News/Talk and Sundays at 8 p.m. on 760 WJR. Find “MSU Today with Russ White” on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and wherever you get your shows.