It will come as no surprise that when I asked for big ideas for catalytic projects that could spark new ridership in Milwaukee, a number of people suggested a bike path over the Hoan Bridge. I’m going to discuss that big idea in this post, and will discuss the other suggestions in a later post.
If you don’t know anything about the history of the proposed bike path over the Hoan Bridge, you can bring yourself up to date by looking over this excellent website devoted to the project. The abridged version of the story is that there was a federal earmark set aside to construct a bicycle and pedestrian path over the Hoan Bridge. The Wisconsin Dept. of Transportation hired a consultant to analyze alternative bicycle routes between Bay View and Downtown Milwaukee. The consultant facilitated a long series of public meetings and did a very detailed engineering study to come up with a bunch of variations on several alternative routes.
The public reviewed those alternatives and loudly and clearly selected the path over the bridge over all the options. Instead of going with public opinion, WisDOT choose a mostly on-street route that uses Bay Street, S. 1st., and S. Water St. WisDOT, but promised to reconsider a path on the bridge as part of the redecking project, which has been delayed each year since that promise.
Due to lack of public sponsor, that on-street Bay View to Downtown connector project sat idle for many years. WisDOT recently asked the City of Milwaukee to implement that project. As I explained in the original Big Idea post, the City of Milwaukee DPW staff is working on that now, and the plans are at about 90%.
Now that everyone is up to speed, is a bike path over the Daniel Hoan Memorial Bridge a big idea worth pursuing? Would it be attractive enough for our design vehicle of a 60-year-old woman with a couple of shopping bags or a 13-year-old boy with a fishing rod? Would it inspire people in other areas of Milwaukee to ask for innovative bicycle facilities in their areas? I have to say the answer is yes to all of those questions.
The primary argument against a bike path over the Hoan is that it would require the elimination of one motor vehicle travel lane in the northbound direction to make room for a 10ft wide path and maintain a full breakdown lane. Clearly if this was done the world would stop spinning and economic collapse would ensue in downtown Milwaukee.
Well, last time I checked the world is still spinning, and WisDOT has both a motor vehicle travel lane and the shoulder blocked off in both directions on the Hoan right now while they do maintenance work on the deck. Not only is the world still spinning, but take a look at this video of the traffic during morning peak (rush) hour and traffic was free-flowing with lots of gaps.
Now the ramp at Car Ferry Drive is closed, and if that were open, it would allow a lot more cars on and definitely increase traffic congestion. But lets imagine twice as many cars in the above video. Even with twice the volume, the level of service would be more than acceptable for the busiest time of day.
Big Idea #1: Hoan Bridge Bicycle and Pedestrian Path.
Champion: Bill Sell has been the citizen champion for quite some time. As great a guy as Bill is, I don’t think he has enough connections to serve as the main champion. And I think anyone with the connections will still need a lot more public support to move this big idea forward. So we still need someone with some power to work on this, but that person will need strong public support. Who is that person? The local alderman? A local business group? The local County supervisor?
What are the next steps? A meeting? A Social Media campaign?
What do you think?