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Hoan Bridge reconstruction debate revs up

Rebuilding or replacing Milwaukee’s Hoan Bridge, pictured in September 2008, has generated much debate since the idea was introduced last fall.  File Photo by Dustin Safranek

Rebuilding or replacing Milwaukee’s Hoan Bridge, pictured in September 2008, has generated much debate since the idea was introduced last fall. File Photo by Dustin Safranek

Sean Ryan

A Milwaukee official is getting a jump on the Hoan Bridge rebuilding debate by steering state planners away from a surface freeway alternative.

Alderman Robert Bauman wants the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to abandon the option even before WisDOT starts its official review of replacement or redevelopment options for the Hoan, which is the roadway for Interstate 794.

“The city has a major stake in what’s done on this,” Bauman said. “I would hope the city has a major voice in which plan is ultimately considered.”

The state agency’s six-year highway reconstruction plan has Interstate 794 slated for construction work by 2013. A report prepared by HNTB Corp., Milwaukee, considered the option of rebuilding the high-rise bridge as an at-grade roadway.

Bauman said he will introduce a Common Council resolution in July asking the city to take a stance against a ground-level rebuild. He said the state should build a new, smaller Hoan Bridge that is only 40 feet tall, compared to the current 125-foot-tall freeway.

“I think the savings is major,” Bauman said. “I’m not the expert, but that’s just my opinion.”

Members of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce on Wednesday will hear a presentation from HNTB about options for the Hoan. The association has not taken a stance on any of the reconstruction options because MMAC leadership does not know what members on the southern end of Milwaukee think about the alternatives, said Peter Beitzel, MMAC vice president.

“That (meeting) will be sort of our temperature-taking device,” he said. “We’ll see what the temperature is.”

Any reconstruction plan for the Hoan, which crosses the mouth of the Milwaukee River, must not include a lift bridge that blocks vehicle traffic while rising to make room for boat traffic, said Tom Rave, executive director of the Airport Gateway Business Association, which calls itself Gateway to Milwaukee. Trucking companies that want to use 794 to go to or from the airport will not tolerate delays while waiting for a boat to sail through, he said.

“It’s very important to keep speed and accessibility of traffic going,” Rave said.

Bauman said his 40-foot-tall reconstruction proposal would leave enough room for recreational boats to pass under the highway. It also would leave enough clearance so the highway won’t disturb the many operations under the bridge that are important to the city, such as the Henry W. Meier Festival Park, the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District treatment plant and the Port of Milwaukee.


  1. How about a tunnel for I-794??? Washington ponied up over $12B for the “Big Dig” in Boston courtesy of Ted Kennedy and Tip O’Neil. It would make a good case for solidly Blue Milwaukee to get some of that same level of funding for continuing to send a solidly Democratic Party block to Congress for decades now.

  2. Any option MUST include a bike lane! Need to link North and South Side bike trails. Very dangerous trying to take 1st and 2nd street.

  3. The Hoan Bridge is the face of Milwaukee for watercraft. Eventhough it would be a shame to see it go. I’d be exicited for a new bridge, whatever it may be. A surface level free way, then a bridge going over the port of Milwaukee might be a better option. That way, both parties will be happy. I’ve been to the Mackinaw Bridge up in Michigan, and at night, it is very beautiful. They cordinate the lights to any holiday (i.e. red,white,blue for the 4th or green and red for xmas) This might boost the apearnce of the Hoan. They could change the colors for the Brewers/Bucks/Packers/Golden Eagles etc.

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