Guest editorial: bike and pedestrian path on Hoan
August 1, 2011
By Patricia Jursik
~photo/rendering Michael Timm
Bold vision of bike and pedestrian access for Hoan Bridge
The Hoan Bridge already offers visitors driving over the iconic span dramatic, panoramic views of the city skyline and the Milwaukee Art Museum’s Santiago Calatrava-designed Brise Soleil. We now have the opportunity to extend the privilege of that view to bicyclists and pedestrians, while creating a unique destination that will garner national attention.
Why not suspend a bridge cantilevered off the side of the arch of the Hoan? This span would allow both bikers and walkers to ascend 120 feet to take in the unrivaled view of the lake and city. I recently appeared at a meeting of Milwaukee County’s Long Range Strategic Plan Steering Committee and gave this vision for a “millennium project”—something so fantastic and breathtaking that it will put Milwaukee’s new lakefront planning before the entire country.
I have talked with two engineers now and am told this is a possible project; with the right engineering it could be done, and it is not impossible. In both cases, I told the engineers to ignore cost and picture the vision.
The Hoan Bridge cannot afford to lose a lane for a dedicated bike path. The Hoan itself carries over 55,000 cars per day. Anyone driving the Hoan during rush hour with the current two-lane configuration knows that it requires three lanes for traffic. While constituents continue to contact me asking for a bike lane, I refer them to the 2002 Wisconsin Department of Transportation report that basically concluded a dedicated bike lane would not be possible for the reasons just stated.
As we plan to redeck the Hoan in 2013, however, there will be federal requirements for accompanying bicycle lane development. Also, in wake of last summer’s tragic structural collapse of the O’Donnell Park parking structure, the county and city of Milwaukee are currently engaged in a long-range plan to redevelop the lakefront. In addition to replacing O’Donnell Park and possible new hotels and office buildings downtown, this plan needs a bold centerpiece.
I have put two and two together to encourage this exciting vision for a cantilevered bike/pedestrian bridge adjoining the Hoan.
Here is my own long-range vision and dream for Milwaukee’s harbor area:
Starting from the south shore, develop the fill area north of the Lake Express ferry terminal lot (the Confined Disposal Facility) as park space with bike rentals, ice cream stands, and other amenities. From here, a bike lane will run through Jones Island (connecting to the Oak Leaf Trail currently ending in Cupertino Park at Russell Avenue and Lincoln Memorial Drive) to the area near the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District facility. A beautifully constructed and artistically pleasing bike ramp or spiral form will convey both pedestrians and bicyclists up to the cantilevered bridge that hangs from the arch, roughly parallel to Interstate 794. Beautiful vistas of the lake and Milwaukee skyline award the ascent with a breathtaking view of the Calatrava, Discovery World, and the Lakeshore State Park island. Cyclists and pedestrians would then pass through a fully encased trail, quite safe, and arrive on the other side of the cantilevered span at a second ramp/spiral bikecase that leads them back down to ground level on the north side of the Milwaukee River. Here, a freshly paved path skirts behind the Marcus Amphitheater and connects to the current Lakeshore State Park trail.
With the proper vision and investment, our Hoan Bridge could become the rival of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in Australia, which allows tethered pedestrians to climb on top of the bridge for a fee.
Patricia Jursik is Milwaukee County’s Eighth District supervisor, representing St. Francis, Cudahy, South Milwaukee, and Oak Creek. She is also chair of the county’s Long Range Strategic Plan Steering Committee. The Long-Range Lakefront Planning Committee, composed of city, county, and private stakeholders, will submit recommendations on the future of O’Donnell Park and the Downtown Transit Center to the Milwaukee County Board by December 2012.
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