Hoan uncertainty breeds suspicion (9:33 p.m. 8/19/09)
Published: August 19, 2009
Elected officials who organized a Wednesday meeting to discuss the future of the Hoan Bridge asked why the state has not shared more project planning information.
According to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s draft Connections 2030 plan, the bridge, which is part of Interstate 794, is slated for rehabilitation or replacement between 2014 and 2019. WisDOT commissioned HNTB Corp. to investigate replacing the bridge with an at-grade, four-lane boulevard. A copy of the plan is available for public review by appointment in WisDOT’s Waukesha office.
South Milwaukee Mayor Tom Zepecki said he was surprised WisDOT was even considering taking down the bridge.
“This idea came out of left field,” he said, “and we’re not sure where the momentum is coming from and what’s behind it.”
WisDOT representatives did not immediately return calls seeking comment.
Patricia Jursik, Milwaukee County Board supervisor, gave a short presentation Wednesday explaining the HNTB report to more than 80 people who attended the public hearing in South Milwaukee. She said she sent WisDOT a public records request to get more information about why the state ordered the study and how it was contracted to HNTB.
Jursik criticized the state for not doing more public outreach when it commissioned and received a plan about the possibility of removing the Hoan Bridge. She said WisDOT should seek insight in the Hoan Bridge and its future from the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission, which is comprised of appointees from the region.
“There are proper channels to do transportation planning,” Jursik said, “and one of the points that I would like to underline over and over again for you is that this effort by HNTB and DOT is a complete end-run of normal channels.”
Rep. Mark Honadel, R-South Milwaukee, said he does not think WisDOT is trying to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes. The formal planning process for the Hoan Bridge has not even begun, he said.
“I think right here what happened is some conceptual ideas slipped out,” Honadel said, “and now we’re fighting. We’re fighting something that might not get built.”
Honadel said he opposes removing the bridge but thinks the state should consider ways to improve exits and grant better access to the Menomonee Valley, which is to the west of the bridge.
Honadel encouraged more public hearings and encouraged residents to share their thoughts with WisDOT. Perhaps public opinion can kill the idea before it goes anywhere, he said.
“I think it’s good for citizens to get involved,” Honadel said, “to start a process whenever they feel the time is right.”