Fox Point — The Village Board made no decision on the fate of the footbridge at Bridge Lane, even as a consultant enumerated potential problems with the structure.
One thing is clear. Many village residents love the footbridge, which stretches 292 feet across a 75-foot deep ravine and connects Bridge and Barnett lanes. It was standing room only as close to 100 people packed a meeting room at Village Hall Tuesday night to weigh in on the future on the bridge.
It has a deep sentimental value, an aesthetic appeal and provides a transportation link, albeit for walkers and bikers, in the village.
Residents have a deep connection to the bridge and they shared it with the board.
Resident Mark Friedman said he and his wife got engaged on the bridge, a group of 80 including students from Cardinal Stritch University held a candlelight vigil there over the past weekend in memory of the victims of Sept. 11, others walk or ride over the bridge almost every day.
Resident Bill Whitcroft said he supported the bridge, summing up the sentimental, aesthetic and practical aspects for its support in a few words.
"We call it a bridge but it is really a park," he said. "You see people coming and going on it all the time. In the fall the vistas are magnificent, and it is a magnificent walk all year long."
Chris McMahon, a structural engineer with Ayres Associates, summed up his review of the condition of the bridge with a recommendation to replace it with a prefabricated truss bridge that would use the existing abutments at an estimated cost of $1,035,000. The cost would include the removal of the existing bridge.
McMahon said the current bridge is showing signs of stress and corrosion. The foundation blocks are shifting and tipping, there is some cracking and buckling evident on it. The steel portions of the bridge are losing their strength, he said.
"If one truss fails, it will fall down," McMahon said.
In addition, the bridge falls far short of modern wind and load bearing codes, he said. Even with repairs, the bridge would not meet modern codes. Earlier estimates of bridge rehabilitation were in the $435,000 range but that fix would likely only last 10 years.
Some residents believe the bridge might have historical value and could be designated as a historical bridge, perhaps enabling the village to apply for and receive funding because of that status. The bridge dates to at least the 1920s. McMahon said there is some evidence the bridge dates back to the 1890s and was used for vehicular traffic until the 1920s.
Resident Charles Mulcahy suggested the village apply to the Milwaukee County Historical Society for a marker, establish a citizen's committee to develop a history of the bridge and apply for a federal transportation grant.
Village Engineer Scott Brandmeier said the village has applied for a federal transportation enhancement grant and should know the result by November.
Based on the discussion and concerns about bridge safety, the village will likely put up signs to replace the current No Loitering signs. The new signs will limit the number of people who can be on the bridge at any one time.
The options the board faces include removing the bridge permanently, repairing or replacing it. The discussion will likely happen at upcoming budget review sessions.
Village President Mike West said residents should watch for the posting of those agendas, saying it is likely the bridge will be on the Oct. 11 agenda. The budget review sessions are open to the public.
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