Alderman proposes guideline for future Hoan Bridge changes

As the state Department of Transportation ponders the future of the Hoan Bridge, a Milwaukee aldermen wants the city to establish criteria for any major changes to the structure.

Milwaukee Ald. Robert Bauman, has proposed a list of 8 conditions to any future changes made to the Hoan Bridge by the DOT.

The bridge, which connects downtown to Bay View, St. Francis, Cudahy and other communities on the south side, needs an estimated $200 million in repairs. Because of the costs of the repairs the state is considering other options, including replacement of the bridge with a street level boulevard. The DOT hired a consulting firm to examine what real estate development possibilities would be created by lowering the bridge to grade level.

Bauman is the chairman of the council’s Public Works Committee. His Hoan Bridge proposal will be considered by the committee and would ultimately need to be approved by the full Common Council to become an official city position.

Ideally, Bauman would like to see the bridge and the portion of I-794 north and south of the bridge converted to an at-grade street that is connected to the city street grid and has a lower speed limit. However, Bauman says that is not realistic because south side officials and residents will likely strongly object to such a plan because it would increases commute times from the south shore to downtown.

Because of that political reality, Bauman wants the bridge and I-794 to remain mostly elevated so Summerfest, the Port of Milwaukee and MMSD are not affected, and so people can pass under the bridge to get to the lakefront. If the freeway/parkway was brought down to street level, but not connected to the street grid, it would create a barrier to the lakefront to local traffic and pedestrians, he said.

"All of that area (underneath the bridge) has active uses," Bauman said.

Another condition for future changes to the Hoan Bridge, proposed by Bauman, calls for eliminating the Lake Shore Interchange and replacing it with an at-grade intersection or roundabout at Clybourn Street and Lincoln Memorial Drive.

Unlike land underneath other parts of the Hoan Bridge and I-794, the real estate under the Lake Shore Interchange would be extremely valuable if opened up for development, Bauman said.

"The land near MMSD isn’t valuable, but at Clybourn and Lincoln Memorial Drive, that’s valuable real estate with tremendous development potential," Bauman said. "That’s just south of the U.S. Bank tower. I could envision high-rise commercial development there."

Other Hoan Bridge redesign conditions proposed by Bauman incluce:

  • The bridge and its approaches must use the existing right-of-way and substantially the same footprint.

  • Any moveable bridge spans must have sufficient clearance over the average water level to minimize bridge openings for non-commercial vessels. All new or reconstructed structures must be designed with lighting and architectural elements developed in consultation with the city of Milwaukee.

  • Bridge openings must be limited to non-peak traffic periods, except in emergencies.

  • The bridge and its approaches must accommodate pedestrian and bicycle traffic.

  • The bridge and its approaches must be limited to 2 lanes of travel, one distress lane, a bicycle lane and a pedestrian sidewalk in each direction.

The Hoan Bridge currently has three lanes of traffic in each direction, but Bauman says traffic on the bridge is usually low and only two lanes in each direction are necessary.

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