Milwaukee County mulling future of historic Lake Park bridge

Ravine Road Bridge could be replaced

Lake Park Milwaukee postcard
The Lake Park footbridge in a historical postcard.
Postcard from Lake Park Bridge
Postcard from Lake Park Bridge

Milwaukee County is considering several options for the 110-year-old Ravine Road Bridge in Lake Park including demolishing it and replacing it with a modern version.

The Milwaukee County Parks Department will meet at 5:30 p.m. tonight in the O’Donnell Park Miller Brewing Room to discuss the future of the 118-foot concrete bridge, which has been closed since December 2014 because of “advanced deterioration.”

GRAEF, a private engineering firm, was hired to investigate bridge deterioration in September 2014, and conducted a follow-up inspection in December 2014.

GRAEF conduced an in-depth inspection in March 2015, and concluded reopening Ravine Road and the pedestrian trail below the bridge should only be allowed after significant work is completed to assure safety.

GRAEF acknowledged the historic nature of this structure may warrant rehabilitation of as many elements as possible – if the county chooses this route, it may extend the life of the bridge 15 to 25 years. Replacing the entire bridge will give it an estimated life span of about 75 years,  according to the engineering report.

Construction cost estimates are:

  • Bridge rehabilitation option – $1.8 million, which does not include future repairs or replacement in 25 years.
  • Bridge replacement in-kind – $2.6 million.
  • Bridge replacement with a steel prefabricated truss – $1.6 million.
  • Bridge replacement with pre-stressed concrete girders:  $1.4-$1.5 million

Milwaukee County Supervisor Gerry Broderick, who chairs the parks committee, and Milwaukee County Parks Director John Dargle Jr. did not return phone calls.

The Historic Water Tower Neighborhood has been following the matter and passed a resolution within its group opposing replacement of the footbridge with a prefabricated steel truss bridge or any other architectural style different from the current bridge.

The group is also opposed to demolishing the bridge.

Phil Schultz, of Whitefish Bay, is a member of Lake Park Friends, another group that has been opposed to demolition of the bridge, said the problem is deferred maintenance on all the bridges in Lake Park has caused structures to deteriorate.

“The reality is there are really no funds in the (county) budget to deal with this,” Schultz said. “That is the concern we have. Our mission is to preserve the historic nature of the park, which is on the national register. If the Stature of Liberty was starting to deteriorate would you just demolish it?”

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