City backs ramp for uncertain Hoan
Published: August 11, 2009
The city of Milwaukee is supporting a $500,000 project to improve a ramp leading onto the Hoan Bridge even though the bridge might soon be torn down.
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation, which is considering plans to renovate the Hoan or replace it with an at-grade roadway, has agreed to pay for half of the ramp project, said Eric Reinelt, director of the Port of Milwaukee. The ramp improvements would allow trucks carrying heavy loads from the port to head north on Interstate 794 across the Hoan from Carferry Drive.
Reinelt said he does not know if there would be any use for the ramp if the Hoan Bridge is demolished.
“That’s a good question,” he said. “I don’t know. I think we’re making the assumption that the (bridge) is going to be as it is.”
Milwaukee officials got stirred up earlier this year after seeing a report commissioned by WisDOT that outlined the possibility of demolishing the Hoan and replacing it with a street-level boulevard. Milwaukee County Board supervisors formed the Coalition to Protect the Hoan to rally elected officials to preserve the bridge.
Patrick Curley, chief of staff to Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, said it is appropriate for the city to spend money on the Carferry project even though the Hoan Bridge’s future is unknown. The port, which will benefit from the improved ramp, isn’t going anywhere, he said.
He said the mayor’s office needs more information about the option to remove the Hoan before deciding for or against demolition.
“Frankly, going to a complete tear down, nobody can really say what the alternative would be, how much land taking that would entail,” Curley said. “We’re certainly not interested in a lot of public land taking.”
Milwaukee County Supervisor Patricia Jursik said promoting construction projects that link to the Hoan will add weight to the argument that it should be preserved. She opposes any plan involving the removal of the bridge.
“That kind of talk has to stop,” she said. “Should they continue to do improvements to connect the Hoan Bridge? Of course.”
Jursik said she will ask the County Board to consider extending the I-794 highway farther south. The interstate begins at the Hoan Bridge on the north and ends at Layton Avenue, but the county has long considered extending the highway farther south to reach the county line at Ryan Road.
Jursik said she will introduce a resolution in September asking the county to support the extension. If approved, the proposal would go to the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission for inclusion in the region’s long-range plan. If that happens, design work can begin.
The Hoan bridge “is becoming a major connection point,” Jursik said.
She said if I-794 connects to Ryan Road, the reduction in downtown traffic congestion could let WisDOT scale back on the Zoo Interchange project.
Reinelt said the city has talked about improving the Carferry ramp for more than two years. But the project is not intended to influence discussion about the broader future of the Hoan, he said.
“It’s totally separate,” he said. “It’s just a business consideration we have to deal with.”
The Hoan Bridge is very important to the harbor’s ability to attract freight, Reinelt said, because it gives trucks easy access to the interstate system. The heavy-load trucks that can’t use the Carferry Drive ramp also would have a tough time making it through the roundabouts envisioned in the street-level reconstruction plan in WisDOT’s Hoan study, he said.