The Argument To Nowhere
It’s interesting how fast the conversation about the Hoan Bridge devolved into an argument about a non-existent option: tearing down the bridge and not building a replacement. Sounds silly, right?
No one, including the MMAC, is advocating that there be no link between downtown and the south shore communities served by 794, but from all the hyperbolic invective spread by supporters of the Hoan bridge suggesting a grand conspiracy to take away their bridge — a county supervisor among them — you’d be forgiven if that’s the alternative you thought was being studied.
Jeramey Janenne at Urban Milwaukee has already done a wonderful job of explaining one particularly good design alternative, as well as the reason why it’s worth having this discussion.
In short, we’re at a point in the lifespan of the Hoan Bridge where we ought to reexamine whether or not the bridge is being used to its expected capacity. I think it’s clear that it’s not and I believe that it should be replaced with a lower bridge that connects to the lower Third Ward and Bay View in a way that encourages development once the current recession passes.
Here’s a graph comparing the average daily traffic count on the Hoan Bridge (2001-2007), I-94 north of Lapham Avenue (2001-2006) and I-94 west of the 60th Street (2001-2006):
What’s surprising is that even during the development renaissance in Bay View and other south shore communities, the average daily traffic never really increased all that much. Construction on the Marquette Interchange obviously played a role in the traffic decline for I-94, but apparently the Hoan wasn’t an option for south side commuters, thus it didn’t experience any tangible increase in traffic. I believe this would suggest that if a lower bridge was constructed the daily traffic would essentially remain the same as it is now.
More importantly, this graph shows just how underutilized the Hoan truly is. It’s a federal highway that handles less than a third of the traffic of similar highways in the area. In light of this, I would say it’s entirely justified to question why we’re spending hundreds of millions of dollars on a bridge that isn’t serving the greater public in an efficient way. Are we content to spend such a sizable sum on a perpetually underused bridge at a time when we’re also experiencing an overall decrease in vehicle miles traveled in Milwaukee County?
To anyone seriously considering the issue, the answer is a resounding no. We’re not content to waste taxpayer’s money or impede infill development in the city’s core. We’re also not discussing the closing of one of the south shore communities paths to downtown. It’s perfectly fine to argue in support of the Hoan, but let’s refocus the debate toward actual facts and not overheated rhetoric.
All charts were created with data from WisDOT