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Appleton bridge attracts early users

Paul Snyder

Barricades, fences and no-trespassing signs are posted, but people keep crossing the College Avenue Bridge in Appleton.

“They’ve been doing it for a good month,” said Appleton Alderman Curt Konetzke. “You can go there at 6 a.m. on a Saturday morning and see people walking or riding across. I’m not quite sure what more can be done to stop them.”

The roughly $10 million project is scheduled to open in November. The bridge is clearly marked as a construction site. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation has warned people against using the span.

And now local police are increasing patrols and threatening fines.

Konetzke, the district alderman, said he often walks around during off hours and sees people crossing when workers are not present. Recently he said he saw one man climb over the unfinished barricades and onto the temporary catwalk for workers.

“It’s a ‘curiosity is going to kill the cat’ situation,” he said. “This is still an extremely dangerous site.”

There is little more the state can do to prevent curious individuals from venturing onto the bridge, said Kim Rudat, spokesman for WisDOT’s northeast region.

“There are barricades, fencing and ‘no trespassing’ signs,” he said. “The problem is anyone that really wants to get into a construction site is going to do it.”

Last week, WisDOT took to the local airwaves warning people about crossing the bridge and issued a statement urging pedestrians and bicyclists to stay off the bridge until it opens.

Rudat said the Appleton Police Department will be stepping up patrol of the area, and anyone caught on the bridge will face a $200 fine.

Konetzke said he is unsure that will deter people.

“It almost has to be a perfect timing thing,” he said. “The city can’t afford to have staff out there 24 hours a day. You can patrol the area, but do you think there are going to be officers sitting there for hours waiting for someone to cross on a bike? They have a lot of area to cover.”

Representatives from the project’s general contractor, Plain-based Edward Kraemer & Sons, did not return calls for comment.

As the project nears completion, Rudat said, there are incomplete parapets, uneven surfaces and no lighting.

When the four-lane bridge opens, it will have space for bicyclists and pedestrians, he said.

“We’re not going to put up any more signs or barricades,” Rudat said. “We’ve said what we’ve had to say.

People need to use common sense.”

Konetzke said he is not convinced they will.

“They’ve finished work on the roundabout right next to the bridge, and people are going through that and it’s a case of being able to reach out and touch the bridge,” he said. “This project’s been all over the local media and there’s a lot of interest in it. Hopefully, no one goes too far.”

One comment

  1. the bridge should have been done months ago. the DOT are some lazy slow workers. when i see any of there sites they are eather empty or there is hardly anyone working. sometimes they do a horrible job. i mean how do you do your work slow and do it horrible at the same time. dont put your hate on the people. check out the DOT. people are just getting antsy.

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