Residents on Milwaukee’s East Side will have the opportunity to weigh in on what the county should do with the Ravine Road Bridge tonight.
The bridge, which has been historically used by pedestrians, cyclists and the occasional maintenance vehicle, has been closed since a 2015 in-depth inspection by Milwaukee County found it was falling apart.
The report cites chunks of concrete falling off and caulk placed into cracks in the concrete becoming loose.
The bridge is 110 years old, said County Sup. Sheldon Wasserman, who represents the district that includes Lake Park.
Wasserman said the bridge is a piece of history that also serves the practical purpose of linking the North end of Lake Park with the South.
The 2015 report found the county has several options for fixing the bridge.
One is a temporary repair, that would last 15 to 25 years, and cost an estimated $1.8-million. That cost doesn’t include the necessary future repairs.
Replacing the bridge in-kind, so that it looks the same, would cost $2.6-million.
Wasserman said the bulk of his constituents seem to favor that option, which is pricier than options three and four: replacing the bridge with a steel prefabricated truss ($1.6-million) or with pre-stressed concrete girders ($1.4 to $1.5-million).
Melissa Baldauff, a spokesperson for County Executive Chris Abele, said his office’s understanding is also that most people prefer replacing the bridge in-kind.
She said the county budgeted $500-thousand for the replacement or repair of the bridge in its 2017 Capital Improvement Budget, but that any more money would have to come from donations.
Since the budget was adopted, two separate actions were taken increasing the county's contribution to roughly $1-million, said Steve Cady, Research and Policy director at the county comptroller's office.
"The total private contributions needed has been reduced to $1,469,200," Cady said via email.
Wasserman said he doesn't expect taxpayers to fund the full repair of the bridge.
“I can’t ask the whole county to pay for one bridge in my district. It’s not fair,” Wasserman said. “So the question is, do we keep it in its present form? Where do we come up with the money?”
“We’re looking for donors, for volunteers, who can come up with some money towards that cost,” Wasserman said.
Wasserman is hosting a meeting open to the public at Lake Park Pavilion Wednesday night at 7:00 p.m., so that constituents can have their say on the possible solutions to fix the bridge.
He said he’ll ultimately ask those in attendance to vote on not just how to repair the bridge, but also what to do with Ravine Road below it.
Ravine Road remains closed along with the bridge.
Baldauff said Abele’s office will have a representative present at the meeting.
She also said the County Executive’s office supports the effort to gather more public input, but that any further funding from Milwaukee County would not be available this year unless the current budget is amended.
On Wednesday afternoon, regular visitors to Lake Park told TODAY’S TMJ4 they hope to see the bridge repaired and preserved as is.
“I used to play on that bridge as a child,” said TJ Harkness, of Shorewood. “It looks just as modern today as if it was designed in the 1950’s or 60’s.”
Mary McCormick, who lives two blocks from Lake Park, also remembers visiting the bridge as a child.
“Other cities and areas of the county look at Milwaukee because of our beautiful park system and our historic structures like this one,” she said. “We don’t want to lose them.”
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