Today, as is often the case on my daily run, I passed the Ravine Road Bridge in the Frederick Law Olmsted-designed Lake Park and wished it was open again.
Not long after, as if by magic, County Executive Chris Abele announced that the County has been awarded a $2 million grant to help fund the projected $2.5 million work to, according to a news release issued by Abele's office today, "reopen (the) bridge (and) road for public use."
The money comes from the State of Wisconsin’s Wisconsin Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP).
The pedestrian bridge and Ravine Road below it were closed in 2014 after inspectors discovered cracks in the concrete span and soil erosion around the bridge’s supports. The bridge was later reopened to foot traffic, it was then fenced off again while the County looked at options, including repairing and replacing the bridge.
The bridge, designed by Milwaukee architects George Ferry and Alfred Clas, opened in 1905.
The winding and wooded Ravine Road connects Lincoln Memorial Drive with the park above.
A recent study commissioned by Lake Park Friends deemed the bridge salvageable, and today’s statement says that the money will be used to "reopen" – not to replace – it.
"While the grant was issued for bridge replacement, the WisDOT has stated that the money could be used for a bridge rehabilitation as well," Lake Park Friends board president Colleen Reilly wrote in an email on Tuesday.
"This is fantastic news, but we do not know yet the details on what the grant will cover or if there will be any ineligible costs related to bridge restoration, Ravine Road restoration, landscaping, long term maintenance, etc."
It appears the County has not yet decided which route to take – replacement or repair – and that could explain why Wednesday's news release was vague in its wording.
"While the County is currently reviewing this new report, it demonstrates that the bridge, while in need of some repairs and maintenance, does not need wholesale replacement of the more expensive structural elements to last at least another 50 years, as previously thought," wrote Reilly.
"Lake Park Friends will be discussing these results with the County in the next two weeks. We will likely host a public meeting after that time. Combined with the concrete test results we previously shared with you, this is very encouraging news that this historically significant bridge should be saved. "
When asked if the plan is to repair or replace the bridge, Karina Henderson, Abele's director of communications, said, "Options are still being discussed at this point … Not sure what the timeline is to make the decision, but obviously we want to see the project move forward as soon as is practicable."
In the statement, Milwaukee County Sup. Sheldon Wasserman referred to the bridge as a "landmark," suggesting that the bridge will be saved.
"The supporters and neighbors of Lake Park have been waiting a long time for this issue to be resolved," Wasserman said, "and they will all be appreciative when the project is complete. To me, Lake Park is the crown jewel of the parks system, and this landmark adds to the incredible beauty of the park.
"I’m very glad that we’ll soon be able to move forward with this project, and I want to thank WisDOT for their support. I’m also grateful for the work of the parks employees who created this application."
Last year, the County committed $500,000 for the project. The grant, today’s statement says, "will ensure full funding of the project."
"I am grateful to the State of Wisconsin for awarding a grant for this project," said Abele in a news release. "Lake Park is one of the jewels of our Parks system, with its diverse natural areas, tremendous views of the lakefront and central location. The Ravine Road Bridge is key in encouraging exploration of this beautiful park and access to recreation, both along the bridge and on the road below.
"Our main goals with a project like this are always protecting the safety of our residents and responsibly leaving a legacy for future generations. This grant will help us meet both of those goals in completing this project at the heart of Lake Park."
In related news, the County also received TAP grants for the Oak Leaf Trail, including $120,000 for relocation of the trail along the Little Menomonee River Parkway ,and $96,160 for trail reconstruction at Greenfield Park.
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 OnMilwaukee.com 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 can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.