Alderman Michael D'Amato may have said it best, "design matters." Indeed, it does, and Milwaukee's newest design made a very impressive debut under the glimmer of a warm blue Indian Summer sky as the new 6th Street Viaduct was inaugurated Wednesday morning.
Mayor John O. Norquist, Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker and Governor Scott McCallum officially opened Milwaukee's newest landmark and suddenly the South Side doesn't seem so far away anymore.
The impressive new structure replaces a 1908 viaduct, which had been a primary connector between downtown and its south side. The old structure connected with the Menomonee Valley floor via ramps and stairways.
"For many of the people who are driving across 6th street, this is the first time they will touch the floor of the valley," said Lilith Fowler, executive director of the Menomonee Valley Project. "The bridges open up a new part of the city."
The new viaduct, which has an expected life of 75 years, includes an at-grade intersection with Canal Street, and Milwaukee's first-ever roundabout -- at least on a major scale -- on the south end near Il Mito and Conejito's. The new viaduct is seven-tenths of a mile long, and is supported at either end by soaring white pylons -- beautifully lit at night -- and their distinctive cables.
"It truly is a gateway to Walker's Point and its vital array of restaurants and small businesses, as well as its development, much like we've seen Downtown and in the Historic Third Ward," said Mayor Norquist.
The city will use the new bridge to spark its Menomonee Valley Plan that has already landed an Allen-Edmonds facility, which will include a factory store, and other mixed use developments.
Some interesting facts and figures about Milwaukee's new landmark and the development underneath it:
- Construction of the new roadway, with its state of the art design, was completed in 25 months. The roadway was closed to traffic for 15 of those months. That closure began in May 2001.
- The new structure is 80 feet wide. It provides four driving lanes, two bicycle lanes and two sidewalks.
- The bicycle lanes provide for a future connection to the Hank Aaron State Trail.
- The structure features the first cable-stayed bridges for vehicular traffic built in Wisconsin. It also features two movable bascule bridges for boat traffic.
- The bridges span two waterways: the Menomonee River and the South Menomonee River Canal. They also span two major rail lines and four surface streets.
- The movable bridges are fully automated. They can be operated remotely from the Water Street bridge house, which is .3 miles downstream.
- The cables vary in length from 63 feet to 205 feet as they fan out from tower to bridge deck.
- The workers used: 40,000 cubic yards of structural concrete, 20 miles of piling and 4 million pounds of reinforcing steel.
- The new 6th Street structure was a project of Milwaukee Gateway Partners, comprised of Zenith Tech, Incorporated, HNTB Corporation, and Lunda Construction Company. Earth Tech, Inc. did preliminary engineering, preparation of the design/build contract and provided construction oversight.
- The bid award of $49.7 million came in under original estimates, and final costs have not yet been compiled.
A life-long and passionate community leader and Milwaukeean, Jeff Sherman is a co-founder of OnMilwaukee.
He grew up in Wauwatosa and graduated from Marquette University, as a Warrior. He holds an MBA from Cardinal Stritch University, and is the founding president of Young Professionals of Milwaukee (YPM)/Fuel Milwaukee.
Early in his career, Sherman was one of youngest members of the Greater Milwaukee Committee, and currently is involved in numerous civic and community groups - including board positions at The Wisconsin Center District, Wisconsin Club and Marcus Center for the Performing Arts. He's honored to have been named to The Business Journal's "30 under 30" and Milwaukee Magazine's "35 under 35" lists.
He owns a condo in Downtown and lives in greater Milwaukee with his wife Stephanie, his son, Jake, and daughter Pierce. He's a political, music, sports and news junkie and thinks, for what it's worth, that all new movies should be released in theaters, on demand, online and on DVD simultaneously.
He also thinks you should read OnMilwaukee each and every day.