Adding a lane for bikes and pedestrians on the Hoan Bridge would cost $9.4 million to $95.5 million, according an analysis of alternatives done by the consulting firm Graef USA.
The range of costs represents the choice to be made - money or traffic lanes - if the Wisconsin Department of Transportation decides to include the bike lane in its upcoming reconstruction.
That project, replacing the road atop the bridge, will start in 2013 and is expected to cost $275 million to $350 million.
With the engineering work under way, the DOT sought to analyze the costs and feasibility of adding a lane for bicyclists and pedestrians.
A draft of the study, which cost $99,000, was released Thursday. It puts a price tag on an addition to the Milwaukee biking options long sought by cyclists.
Closing off one of the northbound lanes on the Hoan, and using the eastern-most section of road for a two-way bike and walking path, would cost $9.4 million. That would reduce the number of northbound traffic lanes from three to two.
As the sketch shows, the bike and pedestrian lane would be separated from motor vehicle traffic by a concrete barrier topped with fencing. The bike lane would be 14 feet wide. The two traffic lanes would be 12 feet each. The inner median would be four feet wide, and the outer, eight feet.
Putting the bike lane in the center of the bridge would also eliminate a northbound traffic lane and cost $27.5 million.
Based on the Graef report projections of traffic volume in 2035, losing one of the six lanes for motor vehicles would result in slow-moving traffic in the future.
The engineering firm also looked at widening the bridge on the east side and tying a bike path to the main supports. That would cost $76.4 million, but preserve the six, 12-foot wide traffic lanes that now carry about 40,000 vehicles per day.
Other options laid out in the report are a bike path built above the current roadway, for $95.5 million or a whole separate structure for $84.4 million. That option is shown below.
The report does not identify which of the alternatives, if any, is favored.
"The governor is evaluating the estimates and looks forward to assessing any additional feedback the department receives from future public hearings," said Cullen Werwie, spokesman for Gov. Scott Walker.
In his posting for the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin, Dave Schlabowske explains how requirements tied to the use of federal dollars in the bridge reconstruction may impact the decision.
"The Federal Highway Administration directed WisDOT to do the study because since 2001 federal policy has required bicycle accomodations on projects that use federal funds unless there is an absence of need or the cost is excessive, which is typically defined as exceeding 20% of the total project," Schlabowske wrote. "In this case, the estimates place the cost of rehabilitating the Hoan Bridge between $275 million and $350 million."
The low end of the cost estimates falls easily within that 20%; the high end exceeds it.
Kevin Hardman, executive director of the Bicycle Federation had this to say about the report:
"“It is very exciting to finally get the study, and we look forward to working with the staff at the WisDOT and the Governor’s office to try to capitalize on a once in a generation opportunity to fill this gap in what is probably the most valuable trail system in Wisconsin.
"The 160-mile network of trails from Chicago to Sheboygan along the Wisconsin coast of Lake Michigan is a tremendous asset for our state. The Bike Fed is confident that the engineers at our Department of Transportation and our political leaders recognize the value in improving that trail system and will balance the costs with the benefits in a responsible manner.”
The state is holding a public hearing on the report on Nov. 14, from 5 p.m to 7 in the DOT’s Milwaukee office, 1001 W. St. Paul Ave.
Comments on the report may be directed to Carolynn Gellings, P.E. Project Manager, Wisconsin Department of Transportation, Southeast Region, 141 NW Barstow St., P.O. Box 798, Waukesha, WI 53187-0798. Email comments to firstname.lastname@example.org are also welcome.