An extended question-and-answer session on proposals to put a bike and pedestrian lane on the Hoan Bridge revealed new details Monday night, in advance of a decision expected in December.
Close to 300 people turned out for the public information meeting, which showed their pregame priorities ahead of the kickoff of the Packers vs. Vikings game on Monday Night football.
Supporters of the proposal came away with the knowledge that the projections for increased traffic congestion in the less-costly options were based on a 60-mph speed over the Hoan. The speed limit is 50.
Opponents focused on the safety questions, the cost, and their perceptions that the bike and pedestrian lane would get little use for much of the year.
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation hosted the meeting to share information and gather input on the pathway proposal. State officials will decide whether to add the bike and pedestrian lane during the bridge rehabilitation.
That decision will be made by the end of the year. The deadline for providing comments is Nov. 30.
The rehabilitation work will start in 2013 and is expected to cost $275 million to $350 million.
Through a representative, Sheriff David Clarke reasserted his opposition to the proposals now being reviewed by the DOT.
Heavy traffic moving next to bikers, runners and walkers is a “recipe for catastrophe,” Lt. William Brown said, while reading a statement from the sheriff. “I don’t care what kind of safety barrier you put up.”
That concrete barrier – to separate the path from northbound traffic in the least-costly option – would be nearly four feet high. The fencing on the outside of the 14-foot pathway would be nine feet tall.
The five alternatives being considered by the DOT range in cost from $9.5 million to eliminate a northbound traffic lane and construct the bike path on the east side of the existing bridge to $95.5 million to build an elevated path 17 feet above the current roadway. In between, the options include $27.5 million to build the path in the center of the bridge and $84.4 million to build a separate bridge 30 feet east of the existing span.
Connecting the pathway to the support structure now in place would cost $76.4 million.
(The full study can be found here.)
This rendering shows the $9.4 million option for a bike and pedestrian path on the Hoan Bridge.
Opponents objected to the high costs, and the potential loss of a lane for northbound traffic.
In the feasibility study, the DOT reported that reducing northbound traffic to two lanes would drop the flow of traffic to an unacceptable level, based on 2035 traffic projections. The details shared Monday night showed that the congestion would occur one hour a day, the 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. peak, and were based on a 60 mph free-flow over the bridge.
The more costly alternatives preserve six lanes of traffic in both directions on the Hoan, which is projected to carry 58,500 vehicles a day in 2035.
“To take out a lane for cars is ridiculous,” said Sandra Smith, a Bay View resident.
Smith also estimated that the high winds and nasty weather would keep bikers off the bridge roughly seven months of the year.
Advocates argue that more and more residents commute by bicycle, and ride even through the winter. In addition, they content the bike lane over the Hoan would provide a safer option for cyclists riding from Bay View to Downtown, and serve as a tourist attraction.
“People discount that, but it adds a whole dimension you can’t ignore,” said Robert Austin, of Shorewood. “This is a huge opportunity that isn’t going to come through again.”
In something of a counterpoint to Clark’s public opposition, Craig Mastantuono explained why Milwaukee Board of Harbor Commissioners recently voted unanimously in support of adding a bike and pedestrian path the bridge over the Port of Milwaukee.
The commission recognizes that commercial operations and recreational activities don’t have to be mutually exclusive, said Mastantuono, a harbor commissioner.
In addition to the Harbor Commission, the Milwaukee County Long-Range Lakefront Planning Committee has endorsed the addition of a lane for bikers and pedestrians on the two-mile bridge.