In Buzz Commentary

Named for former Milwaukee mayor Daniel Webster Hoan, the bridge opened in 1977.

In Buzz Commentary

The bridge deck is nearing the end of its useful life and shows signs of wear.

Clock is ticking for decision on Hoan Bridge

The future of Milwaukee's Hoan Bridge is at hand. A once-in-a-half-century decision will need to be made soon: Should the bridge be repaired and left as is, or should it be replaced with a street-level thoroughfare?

A panel at a Milwaukee Press Club Newsmaker Luncheon bandied about that question recently.

Peter Beitzel, vice president at the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC), and state Rep. Jeff Stone (R-Greendale) both called for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) to conduct a full study, assessing all of the options for the Hoan Bridge.

"We need to do this right. I want good information. I think it's key to the Milwaukee region," Stone said. "I'm going to argue we need a full study."

However, if the DOT is going to authorize such a study on the Hoan, it had best do so soon, Beitzel said.

Proponents of replacing the bridge say a street-level thoroughfare would open hundreds of acres of land for redevelopment along the bridge's lakeside corridor. Beitzel said the only way the replacement concept moves forward is if someone champions that cause, and that someone would likely need to be the mayor of Milwaukee, he said.

Milwaukee County Supervisor Pat Jursik, who represents the south side of the county, is leading the fight to save the Hoan as it is.

Jursik cited several reasons the Hoan must be retained in its current form:

  • Residents on the South Side need a direct, efficient traffic link to Downtown jobs and entertainment.
  • The Port of Milwaukee needs a clean, unimpeded route for ships.
  • The Hoan provides a direct link for Downtown residents and visitors to General Mitchell International Airport.
  • A reduction in traffic capacity on the Hoan would force more traffic onto north / south Interstate 94.
  • Commuters on the South Side use the Hoan as a route to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
  • The Hoan offers an inviting, impressive first view of Downtown Milwaukee for first-time visitors from the airport or the Lake Express High-Speed Ferry.
  • Properly marketed, the bridge could become an icon of the city's skyline (check out how OnMilwaukee.com makes great use of it).

Indeed, the image of traffic backed up for miles while a street-level drawbridge is raised or lowered every time a ship passes through the Port of Milwaukee was not a welcome vision for anyone on the Newsmaker panel, including Eric Reinelt, director of the port.

Stone said the region, the state and the country must rise above petty partisan political discourse and be willing to consider other viewpoints on important issues.

Still, there was something missing from the Newsmaker Luncheon. Oh yeah, now I remember. It was the DOT.

Neither DOT Secretary Frank Busalacchi nor executive assistant Chris Klein could attend the event. Klein also said they could not send anyone else from their agency to represent the DOT.

An agency with hundreds of employees and a total bi-annual budget of $5.9 billion, and there are only two people capable of representing the DOT at a public forum?

Perhaps their response (or lack thereof) is an indication that the future of the Hoan is not a priority right now in Madison.

According to the panelists who did attend, a decision is needed soon, because the bridge is in dire need of repairs, if not replacement.

The Hoan is on the clock.


Talkbacks

mike3333 | Nov. 30, 2009 at 1:59 p.m. (report)

The Hoan Bridge is perfect. No draw bridges and it is shipping friendly. The Hoan was well thought out, unlike the curent propsal which stinks more than Jones Island. Mike Hester

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jjrakman | Nov. 25, 2009 at 10:25 a.m. (report)

If the Hoan goes, say goodbye to all the recent development in revitalized Bay View. In fact, say goodbye to Bay View.

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Hckyboy00 | Nov. 20, 2009 at 4:01 a.m. (report)

The hoan bridge is designated as an interstate highway, there will be no bike path, it's a 55 mph zone, you would be stupid to want to walk or bike on there with any kind of traffic. I personally love the bridge, i love the way the city looks when you come north, i love the convenience to BV, and the airport area. I think it should be repaired, with a fresh coat of paint and some nice white lighting similar to that of the 6th St. corridor. Lowering it and turning it into a drawbridge makes it as useless as KK in terms of a quick commute downtown. KK can be quick enough during off hours, as you just take it to Milwaukee, and right into downtown, assuming none of the three bridges are up. The post about the economic boom provided by the destruction of the only Park East is a great point. The city has a proven record of thinking of what could happen without it actually being a possibility. Fix the bridge, make it a symbol of our city and move on. If we can repair the zoo interchange in 6 months like they are planing to, we can fix the Hoan.

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danielnathan | Nov. 19, 2009 at 1:44 p.m. (report)

If we lose the bridge, KK would have to be spruced up. No parking during rush hour and what not.

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trkSF52 | Nov. 19, 2009 at 12:02 p.m. (report)

Where did the Hoan fit in for the DOT planning for the Marquette Interchange???? Where did all the valley traffic go during those times? I have driven the Hoan for the past 20+ years now, and the traffic flow has increased significantly. Know why? They found out how convenient it was after the Marquette rebuild. No wonder how smoothly the rebuild went. It has become a main artery of traffic for the South Shore suburbs.

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