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Major Milwaukee bridge reopens after 10 months

Construction personnel watch as the Wisconsin Avenue Bridge rises over the Milwaukee River in Milwaukee on Thursday. Edward Kraemer and Sons Inc., Plain, was the general contractor on the project, which refurbished the bridge in 10 months. The firm is also overseeing the work on the nearby Juneau Avenue bridge that is expected to be complete in November. (Staff photo by Kevin Harnack)

By Joe Yovino

Traffic in downtown Milwaukee just got less congested.

After being shut down to traffic for 10 months, the Wisconsin Avenue Bridge in downtown Milwaukee reopened Thursday afternoon.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, standing alongside the bridge Thursday, made the announcement along with officials from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, Milwaukee Department of Public Works and the city of Milwaukee, as well as construction workers.

“It’s important to have this bridge back in service to connect the west side of Milwaukee to the east side,” Barrett said. “The finished product you see today is an indication of what can happen through the hard work of the construction workers.”

Work on the bridge, which was built in 1975, included major rehabilitation of the structural, mechanical, hydraulic and electrical components of the lift span; removal and replacement of the concrete deck and sidewalks on the fixed approach spans; rehabilitation of the existing bridge railings, installation of new railings; painting of the structural steel; repairs to the concrete substructure units; repairs to the structural, architectural, HVAC, plumbing and electrical components of the bridge house; and minor reconstruction of portions of the roadway approaches to the bridge.

Between work on the Wisconsin Avenue Bridge and the July closure of the Juneau Avenue Bridge a few blocks to the north, the reopening of the bridge is welcome news for Milwaukee drivers. According to WisDOT, 8,500 drivers and passengers on 760 buses cross the Wisconsin Avenue Bridge each day.

The construction work will extend the life of the Wisconsin Avenue Bridge by 45 years and the Juneau Avenue Bridge by 75 years.

“We’re very satisfied with the project,” said Dennis Maney, regional manager with Edward Kraemer and Sons Inc. “It was a challenging job that we were happy to be involved with. This bridge has a lot of history

Plain-based Edward Kraemer, which also handled rehab work on the bridge in the late-1970s, is handling work on both bridges. The firm won the work on both bridges with a bid of $19,936,800 in March 2011. Federal money is covering most of the cost for reconstructing both bridges, according to Alderman Robert Bauman.

The Juneau bridge project is scheduled to be complete in November 2012.

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