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South Side representatives are strengthening efforts to save the Hoan Bridge.

South Side coalition seeks to save the Hoan Bridge

One group wants to tear down the Hoan Bridge in favor of something smaller.

The group that opposes that is becoming more organized.

Milwaukee County Supervisors Patricia Jursik, Marina Dimitrijevic and Christopher Larson, along with State Rep. Christine Sinicki, have formed the Coalition to Save the Hoan.

Things are heating up over the Hoan after the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce asked for further studies involving either repairing the bridge for millions or replacing it for millions more.

Advocates argue that lowering it would create more economic development underneath. The Department of Transportation has already commissioned a study. The DOT tried to float the idea as a trial balloon, before it was discovered it already had put some money into a study.

Milwaukee Ald. Bob Bauman has planned to introduce a resolution to the Common Council advocating a 40-foot tall bridge compared with the current 125-foot span.

South Side government representatives fear lowering the bridge would slow down a key route to their districts and slow development in places like Cudahy, St. Francis and South Milwaukee, which are served by the Lake Park Freeway, which was built to give the bridge an outlet that goes somewhere.

"When a major group such as the Milwaukee Metropolitan Association of Commerce asks for a study of alternatives to the Hoan Bridge, there is a hidden assumption that the Hoan Bridge should not be resurfaced and that other links such as ground-level bridges would suffice. This is insulting to residents of Milwaukee's South Side and other south shore communities in Milwaukee County," Jursik said.

"Before the mighty arch of the Hoan Bridge, South Siders were often treated as the poor step-sister of the larger community. The recent renaissance within Bay View and the greater South Shore coincides precisely with the building of the Hoan Bridge in 1977. We must not permit the DOT to steal our glass slipper, the Hoan Bridge."

"This arch is our is our grand entry hall to the Milwaukee Art Museum Calatrava wing," she wrote in yet another eloquent letter in the Bay View Compass. "There is an agenda being floated by some to change course before this bridge can be redecked for its next two decades of life."

The Hoan was finished in 1977 but stood useless until the Lake Parkway opened more than a decade later. A part of the deck collapsed in 2001. Jursik said redecking could be paid for by putting a toll booth at the Illinois border. She also plans to ask the County Board to officially consider the options and weigh in.

Meanwhile, Sinicki has promised to hold a town hall meeting to obtain input from citizens. The group also promises to contact other political leaders to strengthen the coalition. So far, Ald. Tony Zielinski hasn't commented.

Policing the Chief: Milwaukee Ald. Bob Donovan loosened his criticism of Mayor Tom Barrett for using Police Chief Ed Flynn as a prop for the mayor's recent $400 a plate fundraiser at the Italian Community Center.

Donovan had been critical of Flynn's appearance, which he says it mixes police with politics. Nonetheless, the mayor appoints the Fire and Police Commission which hires the chief, thus politics is unavoidable when it comes to the chief.

Barrett's office told Donovan he would donate part of the proceeds of the fundraiser to the Police Officer Support Team. Donovan asked Barrett to donate the money to Operation Impact, an anti-crime program in Donovan's district.

"I applaud you for this and it is comforting to know that the money will be used to help Milwaukee police officers and their families," the alderman says.

Donovan, however, still took a swipe at Barrett and Flynn for Flynn's appearing at the dinner in uniform, saying it was "a clear violation of Section 312-11 of the city code of ordinances that prohibits police officers from engaging in any political activity while on duty and while in uniform."

"It puts the chief in a precarious and uncomfortable position," he wrote to Barrett. "I wonder how he will now deal with officers who decide it's OK to shill for candidates while on duty while on duty and in uniform?"

Donovan asked Barrett to let him know when the check-passing event was going to be held or at least let him know how much money he was putting into the fund so he could send a thank you card.

Flynn has found a defender regarding another issue raised over his running of the department. Ald. Terry Witkowski sent out a letter of support for Flynn after the Journal Sentinel raised questions over the propriety of Flynn retaining two consultants after they ultimately helped him get the Milwaukee gig.

"It appears private foundations and the best researchers in police science in the nation today have conspired to get one of the best minds in crime fighting hired here to reduce crime," Witkowski said facetiously. "Why, it is almost as bad as when this new chief asked for and received help from private industry to get a non-functioning multi million-dollar computer system working?

"Further, it seems that Milwaukee is no longer making national headlines as a crime-ridden city and a place not to live or locate a business. If this conspiracy continues, we may continue to improve living conditions, neighborhoods, the crime rate and it may even help attract companies and new jobs, reduce poverty, further reduce crime and make this an attractive place to live and do business. I want to be part of this conspiracy," he writes.

Pulling on the Trains: Department of Transportation Secretary Frank Busalacchi faced the critics on the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee this week over Gov. Jim Doyle's deal to go solo and sign an agreement with a Spanish train builder without competitive bidding.

Republicans were upset that Doyle came back from a paid junket and announced the $47.5 million deal. The firm, Talgo, is to build two 14-car train sets to be used for Amtrak's Milwaukee-to-Chicago Hathaway line. There's also an option to buy two more trains for a proposed 110-mph Milwaukee-to-Madison line if federal money comes through.

Using phrases right from Doyle critics on talk radio, Republicans on the committee called the agreement a "sweetheart deal" and "a sham."

State Sen. Alberta Darling, the ranking Republican on the panel, said it "doesn't pass the smell test."

State Sen. Mark Miller (D-Minoqcua) said trade missions paid for by third parties always raise questions about ethics, but that is the lay of the land. Former Gov. Tommy Thompson was well-known for taking overseas junkets with private corporations footing the bill.

State Rep. Phil Montgomery (R-Green Bay) questioned why new trains are needed at all. "A whole lot of people are driving older cars." He also questioned why the item wasn't in the budget, which the Legislature has just spent month debating.

They argued that there should have been a bidding process. Busalacchi noted that they didn't have to do it that way, but the governor's office sent out what's called a request for information, which gauges who's interested in the project. He said Talgo was the only serious responder.

Committee Co-Chair Mark Pocan (D-Madison) said he had no problem buying the trains but questioned the process as well, saying the Legislature should have been in the loop along the way.

Busalacchi, with his usual aplomb, told the committee that the governor had the taxpayer's interest in mind all along. As part of the deal, the trains would have to be built in Wisconsin.

"This is what's going to happen," he said.

In a party-line vote, 11-4, the committee approved the purchase. It does not have to be considered by the full Legislature.


Talkbacks

GMP_Don | Aug. 20, 2009 at 10:31 p.m. (report)

The Hoan Bridge was designed for a 100 year life. We're barely 40% of the way through it's intended time of service. If you think that it should be replaced by ground-level streets (with stoplights) and drawbridges, I suggest you drive to downtown Racine along Main Street. You can be delayed 10 or 15 minutes by sailboats going back and forth under Racine's downtown drawbridges. Now imagine the Hoan is gone, replaced by a drawbridge. Your travel will be delayed by 30-45 minutes when the drawbridge goes up to let a huge great lakes freighter go by. With the Hoan, the 120-foot clearance allows the largest freighters to pass underneath, while carying 50,000 vehicles per day. The Hoan and I-794 provide traffic path that keeps our the I-94 rush hour down to managable congestion. Tear down the Hoan, and most of those 50,000 vehicles will turn I-94 into a Chicago-style traffic jam. In proposing to tear down the Hoan, the DOT has a serious credibility problem. The DOT is claiming that further maintenance on the bridge, over the remaining 60 years of life, can be expected to cost $200 million. But DOT refuses to release the study that supports this crazy figure. Down in Louisiana and around Houston, multi-mile bridges routinely get re-decked at costs to the taxpayer which are considerably below the "$200 million" being claimed by DOT. If the DOT's figures are valid, they should survive scrutiny by critics. If the figures were not valid, we'd expect a cover-up similar to what's presently going on. Final comment: Suppose ignorance and "back-room" political corruption prevails, and the Hoan gets torn down. That drawbridge will need motors to raise and lower the bridge. Anybody who designs motor controls (that includes me) will tell you that today's controls will be hopelessly obsolete (and impossible to service) 30 years from now. But 30 years is only 30% of the intended life of the drawbridge. It's quite likely that the drawbridge would require serious rebuilding every 30 years to allow the motor controls to remain servicable. And that ignores the inevitable redecking that the drawbridge would eventually require. How's THAT for a situation to compare with re-decking the Hoan once every 40 years?

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jjrakman | Aug. 13, 2009 at 4:42 p.m. (report)

Loss of the Hoan Bridge means the death of Bay View.

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mkelvr | Aug. 12, 2009 at 8:58 a.m. (report)

Keep the Hoan! awesome views of downtown, great access to Bay view and a Milwaukee landmark.

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devidia | Aug. 11, 2009 at 12:19 p.m. (report)

The only way I could maybe condone replacing the Hoan bridge would be if we could get Santiago Calatrava to design something to replace it with, maybe to compliment the Art Museum. He's designed many other bridges, so why not? Otherwise, I say save the Hoan!!!

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Hckyboy00 | Aug. 10, 2009 at 10:52 p.m. (report)

The problem with most public works projects, is that they assume that development will occur should they happen. Popular opinion probably shows that the City of Milwaukee is as inept if not moreso than the county government, and ripping apart another chuck of freeway to make room for supposed "economic" development will not float by people with the excuse of "it was the county, not the city", additionally, good access to public transit is moot when nobody rides the bus. Mass transit in Milwaukee doesn't suffer from lack of availability to routes, but rather the spread out population of milwaukee which costs not only a fortune to run a bus transit, but is also an incredibly driver friendly metropolis, with far more parking spaces available then there ever are cars. Even during Summerfest, in the middle of a work week it is very easy to find prime downtown parking. The east side of KK from the railroad to Bay street is either industrial, vacant, or the county bus stop. It's actually quite an ugly ride. Mitchell St. is served just fine by KK and 1-94, as between KK and the freeway there is nothing but residential property, there isn't even vacant land to rezone and build on. Greenfield is the same way, Allen-Bradley takes up pretty much all the space between 1st and the freeway, and on the east side of 1st is a lot that's been torn down for years and a gay bar, no offense to the Harbor Room. The Third Ward, and downtown for that matter have enough trouble attracting and keeping businesses, and Bay View as a people who think they have their own town, will not patronize anything north of Bay St, and certainly nothing in shiny new half condo/half retail space. How is downtown not connected with the Third Ward? Watrer St., Plankinton, Broadway, Milwaukee, Jackson, Van Buren, Harbor, 2nd St., 3rd St. 4th St. 5th St. and 6th St. all offer quick and easy ways to reach the Third Ward, Jefferson is the only downtown N/S that doesn't somehow connect to the Third Ward, and that's because of the on ramp. What Milwaukee sorely needs to do is to eliminate parking on Water St. from Juneau to Walker St. and make Water St. a full three lanes. The fact that they try and restrict parking for 5 hours a day on Water and Wisconsin, rarely helps the situation, as most cars park anyway, and defeat the purpose of said parking restrictions. I also don't understand where people think the Hoan is an eyesore, a fresh coat of paint and some accent lighting similar to the 6th St. viaduct would put a gorgeous polish on a Milwaukee landmark, and would cost alot less then a tear down and rebuilt. Not to mention the headache it would spare downtown drivers, who already deal with a constantly torn up E/W roads ( formerly State, Kilbourne still has giant orange generators that block the view of oncoming traffice, Wisconsin currently, and soon to be Michigan)

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