By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Aug 26, 2008 at 9:13 AM

It seems "they" are talking about blowing up the Hoan Bridge. And I don't mean the terrorists. I mean the state DOT. (OK, I can hear the talkbacks already!)

On Monday, the Business Journal reported that the Wisconsin Dept. of Transportation is studying the feasability of removing the Hoan Bridge and replacing it with an I-794 at surface level. Bridges over the Milwaukee and Kinnickinnic Rivers would connect the Lake Parkway to Downtown.

"We’re looking at the feasibility of tearing (the Hoan Bridge) down because the cost of rehabilitation is astronomical,  Frank Busalacchi, secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, told the paper.

For years, the Hoan Bridge was a symbol of poor urban and freeway planning. For years, it stood like a giant, but inept sentinel, over the Milwaukee Harbor; a useless pile of concrete and steel that frustrated drivers could only look -- and shake their fists -- at.

Ramps on its north end were famous for one thing: a brief appearance in "The Blues Brothers" movie. The south end was distinguished by the fact that it was closed. 

The Hoan Bridge was the punch line in a city that was in no mood for jokes as industry tanked and jobs vanished.

But, despite the thundering plud of a massive section of bridge in 2000 -- that, amazingly, led to no injuries -- Milwaukeeans took back the Hoan Bridge and made it a symbol of the city. And it was named for one of the great mayors of Milwaukee's Sewer Socialist tradition.

Instead of the bridge to nowhere, the Hoan Bridge became the bridge to the city's hottest neighborhood -- Bay View -- and it symbolized our connections and our reaching out across three rivers to create a unified city.

Now, "they" are talking about knocking it down. While I agree, objectively, that a structure much lower to the ground -- one that does not demand so much of our attention as we gaze lake-ward -- would be an improvement to the skyline, removing the Hoan Bridge now would be to deprive us of a grand symbol ... our own Eiffel Tower, or maybe more appropriately, our own leaning tower of Pisa.

Sure, maybe "they" should never  have built it in the first place. Or maybe "they" should have recognized the mistake and blasted it into oblivion in 1976. (The bridge opened to traffic in 1977 and 20 years later it was connected to the Lake Parkway.)

But as Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose sang  in 1972, the same year construction of the Hoan Bridge was completed, "It's too late to turn back now. I believe, I believe, I believe I'm falling in love."

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.