MILWAUKEE COUNTY — Milwaukee County supervisors voted Thursday in favor of a plan to fund repairs of the long-shuttered Lake Park bridge.
Closed in 2016 because engineers deemed it unsafe, recent plans put repairs at nearly $2.5 million. But new estimates add $1 million to the price tag and some want to dip into the county’s contingency, or emergency, fund.
The proposal by Supervisor Sheldon Wasserman, whose district encompasses the park, proposed the county authorize the $1-million withdrawal or risk losing the project altogether. The board approved that proposal Thursday.
“I’m basically going to be begging my colleagues to support this million-dollar drive so we can get construction going this summer,” said Wasserman.
Wasserman says the county is up against a tight deadline. The majority of the funding already secured for the project comes from federal grants that expire if shovels aren’t in the ground by late June. The construction bids also expire and that may drive up costs again.
“If we don’t start building, we lose the $2 million. If we lose the $2 million, we lose the whole project - it’s gone” he said.
The proposal passed out of the finance committee 5 to 2. One of those who voted it down was Supervisor Shaun Rolland of the 6th District.
“It’s not to say this is a bad project," said Rolland. "It’s a question of what’s the best project, what’s the most efficient spending with our limited budget dollars.”
Rolland worries there are other more pressing needs in the county that would help move Milwaukee towards its goal.
“We really set a vision to make Milwaukee County the healthiest county in Wisconsin by driving racial equity. The question is, will this footbridge in an already beautiful park in an affluent neighborhood right next to the lakefront, help underserved people live healthier?” said Rolland.
The bridge closed in 2016, the road below it in 2014. Another bridge in the park had to be repaired when a semi-truck driver accidentally drove onto it in 2014.
Wasserman says those repairs were covered by the trucking company’s insurance. The bridge was built in the early 1900s.