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With the need for a complete overhaul looming,WisDOT officials have opted to install netting underneath the crumbling Hoan Bridge. (PHOTO: Andy Tarnoff)

The summer of crumbling concrete

With the Dan Hoan Bridge crumbling, Gov. Jim Doyle appears to lack the political will and the funds to do anything more than apply nets around the bridge to catch its falling concrete.

There seems to be a whole lot of public crumbling going on around here. First the Zoo Interchange began falling apart and needed emergency temporary replacements to some of its bridges.

Then a chunk of concrete fell and killed 15-year-old Jared Kellner at Milwaukee County's O'Donnell Parking Garage on June 24. That tragedy has prompted an independent review of all of the county's structural facilities by GRAEF engineers.

That county review is the responsible thing to do. We'll worry about the blame -- and the liability -- later.

Our Rome isn't burning. It's crumbling.

Let it be said here that putting up interspersed netting to catch concrete as it falls off the Hoan Bridge is not a sufficient or wise public policy. The bridge spans over the Historic Third Ward, the Summerfest grounds, the Milwaukee Harbor and the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District Treatment Plant.

The potential for tragedy here is obvious.

"It does fit the same path as the Zoo (Interchange). How long are they going to keep falling apart?" said state Rep. Jeff Stone (R-Greendale), the state Legislature's foremost expert on transportation issues. "I think when you start to have pieces of concrete falling off, there needs to be more urgency. The plan right now is to catch the pieces that fall off the Hoan."

Last October, the Milwaukee Press Club presented a Newsmaker Luncheon on the Hoan Bridge. We assembled a panel that included Stone; Milwaukee County Supervisor Patricia Jursik; Pete Beitzel, vice president of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce; and Eric Reinelt, director of the Port of Milwaukee.

They engaged in an forthright and open discussion about the options for the Hoan, which include repairing it, replacing with a street-level draw bridge and extending it to Ryan Road in Oak Creek.

Notoriously missing in action at that meeting was someone -- anyone -- from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. We invited Transportation Secretary Frank Busalacchi and his next-in-command Chris Klein, neither of whom could attend.

They also declined to send anyone to represent their department.

That lack of vision, urgency and priority is frustrating for Stone, Jursik and the mayors of several south side suburban communities, who see the Hoan as a vital link to downtown Milwaukee and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

At this point, I would like to make my own an addendum to the DOT's policy of trying to catch the concrete as it falls: Anyone passing beneath the Hoan Bridge is advised to consider wearing a hard hat. And move as quickly as you can.


Talkbacks

GeorgeWill | July 8, 2010 at 12:31 p.m. (report)

It hurts to see all the funding going to the Spaniards and the cho-cho when we need the Hoan Bridge maintained.

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AndrewJ | July 8, 2010 at 11:50 a.m. (report)

Good thing the I-94 corridor to Chicago is getting repaired/redone ASAP. Yet another area Doyles administration has failed miserably. And don't leave Barrett out of this either. He has paid no attention to any REAL transportation issues as Mayor, living just a few miles from these affected areas. You think that will change if he's Governor and in Madison? I bet if you contacted Doyle or Barretts office with plans to build a train in place of the Hoan, you'd get them to your meeting then. Better yet, a super duper bonafide futuristic hover train! Yeah...that's the ticket! Sheep.

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rabid652 | July 8, 2010 at 10:24 a.m. (report)

...also add arrogance to the list. They have also stone walled the Journal and refused to show up for community meetings on the subject.

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rabid652 | July 8, 2010 at 9:36 a.m. (report)

Frank Busalacchi and Chris Klein are first rate pieces of s*** and would be wise to never set foot in Milwaukee again after their almost criminal acts of negligence and ignorance.

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