Save the Hoan Bridge?

There’s been a lot of talk here in the South Shore suburbs about the future of the Hoan Bridge, which needs to be replaced or redecked, given the poor condition of the road surface. One proposal that’s been floated is the idea of tearing down the Hoan and replacing it with a street-level version of I-1794, with lower lift bridges or drawbridges replacing the Hoan itself.

Opponents of tearing down the Hoan Bridge, who include County Supervisors Pat Jursik, Chris Larson, and Marina Dimitrijevic, along with State Rep. Chris Sinicki, have formed the Coalition to Save the Hoan, which will be hosting a series of town hall meetings to gather community input on the future of Milwaukee’s Hoan Bridge. According to their press release, the Coalition to Save the Hoan Bridge was formed to “draw more attention to the quiet effort underway to remove the transportation link between the south shore and downtown Milwaukee.”

In a statement, Supervisor Jursik said of the proposal to tear down the Hoan Bridge, “Facts are facts. The State Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC) are both behind a clandestine effort to tear down an economic lifeline used by tens of thousands of drivers every day. The DOT’s figure of $200 million to re-deck one bridge cannot be correct. That’s one-fourth of the entire Marquette Interchange project! These are the facts that the DOT and the MMAC don’t want you to hear.” I’ve seen the DoT’s cost estimates to redeck the Hoan Bridge, and I’d be curious to see some numbers to back up Sup. Jursik’s conclusion that redecking the Hoan Bridge won’t cost that much.

As a resident of the South Shore suburbs, I’ve grown to appreciate the importance of I-794 as a vital connection between Milwaukee’s downtown (and points north of downtown) and the southern suburbs, and while I’d be opposed to any efforts to cut that connection, that’s not what’s being proposed by the DoT. The proposal I’ve read about would replace the Hoan with a street-level freeway and lower bridges; it wouldn’t cut the connection completely. It seems to me that the argument against tearing down the Hoan is one of convenience, as tearing down the Hoan and replacing it with a street-level freeway with lower bridges might add a few minutes to the morning and afternoon commutes.

I support whatever proposal makes the most sense from a dollars and cents perspective, because while time is certainly a valuable thing, I’d rather spend a few extra minutes in my car each day if it meant saving millions of tax dollars. What’s more, I simply cannot support redecking the Hoan Bridge if such a project includes toll roads, whether on I-794 or elsewhere, as Supervisor Jursik has proposed. Ultimately, when a decision is reached on how best to proceed with the Hoan Bridge, the most cost effective solution should be the solution chosen, not the solution that pleases the most elected officials.


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10 thoughts on “Save the Hoan Bridge?

  1. Is there a price estimate on demolition of the Hoan and on a new surface street replacement? What will be the annual cost of power and staffing lift bridges? I use the Hoan all the time. I would like to see them keep it but cost is a definite factor.

    1. E, I haven’t seen a cost estimate for replacing the Hoan with a street-level thoroughfare. Ideally I’d like to see the Hoan stay as well, but not if it would be more cost effective to replace it with something lower.

  2. E, to be honest, I don’t know how much of a traffic problem lift bridges would create, because the proposal I saw would include specific times that ships would have to avoid entering the inner harbor, such as rush hour. And for all the times I’ve drive the Hoan to and from work, I can’t honestly say I’ve ever seen a ship crossing under the Hoan during rush hour.

  3. Zach…do you know when the numbers will be available?? Plus…didn’t we just spend a lot of money fixing the Hoan Bridge??

    1. Anon, if/when I find the numbers, I’ll post a followup. As for your second question, a total of $16 million was spent to demolish and replace the damaged section and retrofit the remainder of the bridge after the collapse in 2000.

  4. Commercial traffic goes under the bridge. i am not sure, but can the city the city can legally limit the times of bridges for commercial traffic?
    The City already has trouble with the lift bridges on the river, why add to the hassle and the already understaffed bridge crew.

    1. Raider, the City of Milwaukee might not be able to, but I’d guess the Port of Milwaukee has the authority to limit when traffic can come into the port, including the inner harbor.

  5. The Hoan Bridge is a political issue. Count the campaign dollars transferring from the road builders to the politicians. First we pay them to put it up, then we pay them to tear it down, and then we pay them again to build a replacement.

    No, repaving makes the most sense, but politicians don’t like logic.

  6. If you restrict the hours that ships can come through the opening into the port, the ships will simply go elsewhere, and Milwaukee will lose millions of dollars in revenue, and port workers will lose their jobs, tug boat captains will lose their jobs. It costs millions of dollars a day to run a freighter, if you tell them they will have to wait hours to bring in their ship to unload, they will go to Green Bay, or Waukegan, or Chicago, and be taken care of immediately.

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