Wisconsin and Juneau Street bridges close for construction

Bridge Closings
Local drivers and MCTS are adapting their routes through downtown to accomodate the current bridge construction.

Drivers have felt the pain at the gas pump for some time, but this week introduced another possible pain at the wheel for Milwaukeeans.

Monday marked the beginning of construction on the Wisconsin Avenue and Juneau Street bridges. The bridges are now closed and set to reopen in August and and November 2012, respectively.

According to Craig Liberto, structural design manager for the City of Milwaukee, both bridges had advanced structural deterioration, although each has its own specific problems to repair.

Liberto said the Juneau Street bridge will be completely reconstructed, with workers removing the entire bridge and replacing it.

The Wisconsin Avenue bridge, on the other hand, will not be completely replaced. However, there will be major rehabilitation involved, including updating mechanical, electrical and hydraulic components to ensure the bridge is reliable for both river and pedestrian traffic.

Liberto compared Milwaukee construction to a car, saying that it requires potentially expensive maintenance to keep it operating.

The city is repairing both bridges at the same time with the help of federal funding. Milwaukee received a $21.5 million grant from the Obama administration to rehabilitate and replace the bridges.

Though the construction may make the morning commute for those who use the bridges a hassle, Liberto said it could be worse.

“If the city did not do this work, there would be a point where traffic would be detoured permanently or the bridge would close completely,” he said. “This would hurt the navigation industry in Milwaukee, which would not be able to serve its function.”

Milwaukee’s Department of Public Works has made a number of changes to traffic routes in the downtown area as a way of helping commuters.

“Wells Street is now a two-way to help drivers get from one place in the city to another,” said Cecilia Gilbert, permits and communications manager for the DPW. “That’s one thing we do to accommodate them during ongoing projects.”

Gilbert said businesses located around the project are also updated weekly on the construction’s progress. Signs are also placed around the area to inform drivers the businesses will remain open during construction.

The DPW has been working on ways to help pedestrians avoid the construction as well, Gilbert said, including brochures that show how they can get across downtown through the skywalks.

While the construction is inconvenient for many Marquette students, commuter students may feel the pain worst.

Rebecca Marin, a sophomore in the College of Nursing and commuter student, said Milwaukee construction is useful, but annoying, especially depending on the season.

“In winter it can be frustrating because you have the snow, and construction makes it even more irritating,” Marin said. “For people who (travel) an hour every day though, it could be a hassle … but in general, construction is worth it.”