By OnMilwaukee Staff Writers   Published Nov 11, 2009 at 1:11 PM

Here at, we take pride in being Milwaukee experts. Since it is literally our job to eat, sleep and breathe all things Brew City, we get many questions from our readers.

This is where we answer them.

In the "Ask OMC" series, we take your questions -- big or small -- and track down the answers. Send your query to Be sure to include your name and location, and we will consider it for our next installment.

This week, we were inspired by a number of Talkbacks and e-mails that flowed into the editorial office in the wake of the closing of Good Life, a restaurant located at 1935 N. Water St. that was impacted by the ongoing construction of the Humboldt Avenue Bridge.

There were some common themes to the questions:

"What's the deal with the Humboldt Avenue Bridge?"

"Why is it taking so long?"

"When is it going to be done?"

"Why aren't you guys writing about this?"

We will get to the more common queries momentarily, but would like to point out that's Jeff Sherman addressed the issue a month ago, when he spoke to Robert Jenkins, co-owner of the Bayou, 2060 N. Humboldt Ave. You can read that interview here.

As for the other questions, we e-mailed Cecilia Gilbert of the Milwaukee Public Works Department and she passed along some basic information, as well as updates from some of the informational meetings that have been held since February.

First, the basics ...

The Humboldt Avenue Bridge project consists of building a bridge over the Milwaukee River, a bridge over Riverboat Road, a ramp providing access to Riverboat Road, six adjacent retaining walls, pavement approaches and utility alterations.

The bridge renovation started in October 2008, with an original completion date of this month and a budget of $9 million. Because it is a state-funded program, the city is paying 20 percent of the cost with the state picking up the rest of the tab.

In June, information was shared regarding the delay of work due to soil obstructions discovered after work began on the south Riverboat Road abutment. Foundation systems were subsequently redesigned and project sequencing revised. Extensive soil borings that were taken during the design phase did not reveal the extent of the obstructions encountered. A revised project timing extending completion into June 2010 was provided at that time.

Though the contractor later requested an extension into next fall, the Department of Public Works was adamant about accelerating the process and sticking to the June completion date.

Here is a look at the two most recent updates from city engineer Jeff Polenske and city construction manager Samir Amin:

Oct. 5 updates

Status of Major Project Components

  • Pier foundation and the pier for the river bridge have been built in the waterway
  • Both abutments for the river bridge have been constructed
  • The railing wall on the southeast corner of the river bridge has been constructed
  • The micro-piling operation for the entire foundation system has been completed

Construction Issues

  • Due to alleged impacts to the adjoining property, the foundation system for the retaining wall adjacent to the ramp was redesigned to further ensure potential impact or conflicts with the existing shallow foundation system of the adjoining building were avoided. This foundation work is completed.
  • This area of the ramp and retaining wall foundations was needed to safely deliver and install the girders for the river bridge and this work has been delayed to November.
  • The delay of the girder installation postponed the bridge deck installation until 2010.

Subsequent Actions

As a result of concerns expressed at the stakeholders meeting, DPW staff met with the contractor to evaluate all potential to accelerate various components of the project.

The revised project scope required that the Riverboat bridge be built after completion of the river bridge since access on Riverboat Road could not be maintained during construction. A temporary reduced bridge clearance of 12 feet during construction was pursued and granted from the Milwaukee Fire Department which permitted access to be maintained beneath the bridge during its construction.

This revision allows work to be completed on both bridges at the same time while maintaining access on Riverboat Road. The contractor will work an accelerated schedule which will allow for the Riverboat bridge to be completed within the next two months.

This completion will further accelerate the construction of the retaining walls between the bridges and allow the private utility work to take place in this area over the winter months as weather permits. This work when completed will allow the contractor to install the girders and the concrete deck in early spring and have the entire river bridge completed by June, 2010. Access will be maintained on Riverboat Road at all times.

Nov. 5 updates

Status of River Bridge Components

  • River bridge abutments and pier have been readied for girder placement and setting.
  • River bridge girder installation commenced Nov. 4. The contractor modified the lifting and installation method to ensure girders were placed before winter.
  • Once river bridge girders are set, forming and steel work for the bridge deck will commence as weather permits.
  • River bridge will be readied for the concrete deck pour which, due to weather constraints, is anticipated in spring 2010. Mild weather could potentially accelerate this work.

Status of Riverboat Road Bridge Components

  • The temporary reduced clearance beneath the Riverboat Bridge during construction allowed work to resume on the south abutment concurrently with the river bridge work.
  • The formwork for the south abutment will be complete this week and the concrete pour anticipated next week.
  • Once the south abutment is complete, the deck framing and installation work will commence. The placement of the supporting framework for this deck work resulted in the need for approval of the temporary clearance restriction.
  • The deck work is anticipated to be completed before the end of the year.
  • Traffic will be maintained beneath Riverboat Bridge at all times.

Status of Ramp/Retaining Wall Components

  • The completion of the retaining wall on the southeast corner of the river bridge allowed retaining wall work along the easterly sidewalk area to continue.
  • The sidewalk adjacent to the Bayou building is currently being constructed and it is anticipated that access will be restored within a couple weeks.
  • Work continues on the retaining walls in the roadway area between the two bridges. Completion of this work will allow private utility work to take place in this area over the winter months as weather permits.

Project Schedule Status
Currently, the anticipated completion date for all work remains as June 2010.