Controversy builds for Hoan Bridge lighting plan

Last updated on July 2nd, 2019 at 10:59 am

A pair of Republican state legislators say they oppose the Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s plans to add decorative LED lights to the arches of Milwaukee’s Hoan Bridge, and one legislator says he will push a measure to have the funding for the lights eliminated.

As BizTimes Milwaukee first reported last week, the state DOT plans to add the lights as part of the $278 million project to rehabilitate the bridge. The cost of the lights is estimated at $500,000 to almost $1 million, according to Ryan Luck, chief construction engineer of southeastern Wisconsin freeways for WisDOT.

Two GOP legislators blasted the plans for the lights, saying it is a waste of money and the funds should be spent elsewhere.

“It is staggering to me that projects in (my) Assembly district are being delayed because of a lack of funding while up to a million dollars is being allocated to make the Hoan Bridge pretty,” said state Rep. John Jagler (R-Watertown). “A safety project in Ixonia has been pushed back a year and highways through Columbus are crumbling but we have money for this?”

Jagler said he plans to introduce a budget amendment to have the funds for the Hoan Bridge LED aesthetic lights removed from the project.

“These lights are for looks only and serve no safety purpose,” Jagler said. “The funding for the lights is nearly identical to the amount needed for the (Ixonia) project on Highway 16, which has now been delayed a year. Improving safety at an intersection, which has seen dozens of accidents with injuries and several fatalities in recent years, should take priority.”

Assistant Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke (R-Kaukauna) also criticized the Hoan Bridge light plans. He has already introduced ta budget amendment to remove the DOT’s ability to add landscaping and other aesthetic improvements to state road projects.
“This is an example of misplaced priorities within the DOT’s budget,” Steinke said. “Once again, taxpayers are paying for aesthetics while more urgent projects are waitlisted. With transportation dollars as scarce as they are right now, there is no way that the state should be spending nearly $1 million on decorative lights for a bridge in Milwaukee.”

Jagler told AM-620 WTMJ this morning that he has received several emails in support of the Hoan Bridge lights, but he said, “We can’t afford this right now. Would it be great? Yes. (But) it’s time to grow up and prioritize.”

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