By Eric Paulsen Special to Published May 05, 2004 at 5:16 AM

{image1}Milwaukee's ongoing push toward improved architecture, pedestrian-friendly development and increased waterway access along the Milwaukee River all the way up to North Avenue doesn't just mean an improved RiverWalk and condos a-plenty.

It also spells more opportunities to access and cross the river, including new, unique bridges for non-motorized traffic. One such span already exists downtown, linking the areas around Water Street and the Bradley Center.

A new bridge, named the North Avenue Dam Pedestrian Bridge, does the same further upstream, tying together areas around Commerce Street, Caesars Park, Kane Place, and the businesses at the Jewel-Osco development on Humboldt and North.

However, residents of these areas, Brady Street, Riverwest and East Village won't be the only beneficiaries of the new bridge, as it will also link developing Milwaukee County recreation trails, the stone stairs in Caesars Park with the bike lanes and sidewalks along Commerce Street. One will even find a close connection to the Oak Leaf Trail, only a few blocks away.

"Strong connections make for strong communities," said Department of City Development Commissioner Patricia Algiers. "We're pleased we have another opportunity to connect the east and the west sides of the river, providing the pedestrian link between the East Village neighborhood and Brady Street with the Riverwest area."

{image2}The fixed-span bridge design, a winning entry striving to best balance cost and aesthetics, features a concrete deck -- rather than wood -- for smooth walking, biking and rollerblading. Of its total 325 feet, 170 will span the water. Its width and approach design allows for full access and in doing so makes Caesars Park handicapped-accessible for the first time.

The bridge's total cost -- including abutments, design, architects' fees and all -- will run about $1.3 million. Funding comes from the Beerline TIF (Tax Incremental Financing) District, which promotes connection points from neighborhoods.

The Beerline TIF also created the Booth Street stairs, the stairs at Vine Street connecting to Hubbard Street by the new Roots restaurant and the marsupial bridge that will hang below the Holton Street Viaduct (fabrication of materials is beginning, and by June construction workers will be buzzing underneath that bridge. It should be ready by Spring 2005.)

The North Avenue Dam Pedestrian Bridge is named for its location at the original point of the North Avenue Dam, constructed in 1835. Though rebuilt over the years, the North Avenue Dam gates opened in 1990 and were fully removed in 1997.

So, when will the bridge be completed?

Aside from steel pricing issues causing some scheduling problems for rail fabrication, completion of the bridge is scheduled for mid-July.

Eric Paulsen Special to
Eric Paulsen is a Milwaukee native but also grew up in Chicago, Detroit and Dallas, which means he’s never lived in a decent climate. Paulsen works as the Communications Officer for the Greater Milwaukee Committee, serves as a writer and contributor for commercials and a national TV show and pops up on 103.7 Kiss FM on weekends, doing his share of overplaying Top 40 hits. Previously, he was a business partner and director in a start-up online research company that began in 1998 and reached the Inc. 500 list by 2005. He was an early contributing writer for, dating back to 1999. He got his MBA from UW-Milwaukee in 2007 and also holds a BS in Consumer Science (a degree he can’t explain, either) from UW-Madison and thus cheers on the Badgers with reckless abandon. Eric is a graduate of the Future Milwaukee Leadership Program and participates in many community-minded events and initiatives, invited or not. When he’s not working, Paulsen enjoys running, road trips and practicing for a future career as a beer connoisseur.