Fox Point delays decision on popular pedestrian bridge

Published on: 3/9/2011

Fox Point - The Village Board here put off for another month a decision on what to do with a much-loved pedestrian bridge that used to connect N. Barnett and N. Bridge lanes, but now is closed.

The board also delayed until April a decision on whether to borrow $2.5 million for the bridge and other capital projects.

Michael West, village president, said both issues would be on the Village Board's April agenda.

The 292-foot bridge, which spans a 75-foot-deep ravine, became controversial last summer after the Village Board, relying on a consultant's inspection of the bridge, studied whether to remove, repair or replace it - and neighbors organized to save it.

The consultant, Graef-USA, recommended after its 2009 inspection that the village limit the number of people allowed on the nearly 100-year-old span.

But in October, based on a report that some 80 people had gathered on the bridge, Graef urged the village to close it altogether. Residents haven't been able to use the span since then.

The Village Board has been gathering information on its options since then.

West said Tuesday that the board is getting closer to a decision on which way to go. But the board decided that more information was needed, and did not take action Tuesday night on the bridge.

Scott Brandmeier, village engineer and director of public works, responding to questions posed by the board in its February meeting, said that it would take six to eight months from whenever the board decides which way to go with the bridge to the beginning of construction (or demolition), and another four to five months after that if the decision is to replace it. He also predicted that at least 150 trees would have to be removed for the most likely method of construction to be carried out.

Several Fox Point residents spoke at the meeting.

Linda Gale Sampson, who said she'd lived about two blocks from the bridge all her life, urged the board to replace it. "It needs to be done right, replaced so it lives another 100 years," she said.

But Jean Wilson, another neighbor of the bridge, thought the span could be repaired without much trouble or expense. "To a large extent we are overreacting," she said. "It doesn't need to be a major state-of-the-art bridge."

The board put off the $2.5 million borrowing - which would also pay for sewer work, a library project and other items - to make sure the wording in the borrowing document didn't rule out any of the board's options.