Toll of time: One of the first to cross the International Bridge makes a last visit to the old toll booths
July 21, 2014 – The year Barb Reiter was 12, she missed Halloween in order to take a special trip up north to Sault Ste. Marie with her truck driver dad. “I was 12 and it was Halloween, so I missed trick-or-treating,” she said. “So you guys owe me some candy.”
Instead, Barb spent the day as she often did, riding along with her dad on his runs to pick up lumber from Canada and return it to a furniture plant in Muskegon. This trip was one of the most memorable. Instead of crossing the St. Marys River on a ferry, which could take up to two hours including wait time, they had the honor of being in the first commercial vehicle to cross the brand new International Bridge.
An old photo shows Barb and her father, Carl, paying the toll as they head northbound across the bridge on Oct. 31, 1964. Barb vividly remembers the crowd that greeted her and her dad as they headed back south down I-75 after the ceremonial crossing.
“There were just miles of traffic,” she said. “Everybody out of their cars tooting and waving, it was one of the best memories I ever had in my life.”
International Bridge staff recreated those memories as best they could on July 11. Barb, now 64, from downstate Mesick, Mich., and her brother Arvid, 58, of Rock Hill, S.C., drove up to pay a final nostalgic visit to the old toll booths. Arvid runs a successful trucking company of his own and put about 1,100 miles on one of his rigs making the round trip. He said he remembers his dad as a great provider who was constantly making trips to Canada through the Upper Peninsula.
“He was a hard worker, my dad. He raised five kids with that one truck he had,” Arvid said. “We had a lot of fun out there on the highway.”
Brother and sister said they remember many trips with their dad, who passed away nine years ago. They’d ride along on weekends – and sometimes even play hooky from school – to keep him company and help stay awake on some of his four trips a week up from Cadillac. Revisiting the bridge brought back a lot of memories.
“It just meant so much to me, I just can‘t even express how much,” Barb said of her recent visit. “This being in memory of my dad – and reliving what my dad did – it‘s totally awesome.”
The Reiters visited just in time. The old booths were removed the following week as part of the two-year, $8.9 million International Bridge Toll Plaza construction project. The existing five original toll lanes are making way for seven new lanes and a new enhanced toll collection system.
Customers are encouraged to visit the bridge website at www.saultbridge.com for more information on the Toll Plaza project. Follow the International Bridge on Twitter at www.twitter.com/saultbridge for current construction announcements and photos.
Top: Barb Reiter looks on as her father, Carl Reiter, hands over the first commercial toll collected at the newly opened International Bridge in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., on Oct. 31. 1962. (Reiter family photo)
Bottom: Almost 52 years later, Barb and her brother, Arvid Reiter, re-enact the scene at one of the original toll booths with International Bridge Administration (IBA) Toll Operations Manager Fiore Cappelli. The original booths were removed shortly after their visit as part of the ongoing IBA Toll Plaza project. (IBA photo)