Hoan Bridge lighting plan ignites controversy

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

A report on Biztimes.com about the state Department of Transportation’s plans to add aesthetic multi-color LED lights as part of the $278 million project to rehabilitate Milwaukee’s Hoan Bridge recently sparked a substantial multi-media community debate.

The DOT plans to add decorative LED lights to the arches of the Hoan 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.

The Biztimes.com report sparked dozens of comments on Twitter. A poll on the BizTimes web site indicated 70 percent of respondents supported the plan for the Hoan Bridge lights.

However, two Republican 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 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.”

Greg Uhen, managing partner of Milwaukee-based Eppstein Uhen Architects Inc., had a different take on the issue.

“Given that the only true view of our skyline is when entering our city from the south and the west, yes I would say that lighting up the Hoan would add substantially to beauty of our city at night,” Uhen said. “Much like the Sixth Street Viaduct does, but on a much more iconic scale. Of course the view from the water would be spectacular.” n

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