Jeramey Jannene

Misconceptions on the Hoan

By - Sep 3rd, 2009 07:28 am
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Milwaukee Journal Sentinel columnist Patrick McIlheran recently took a swing at my Hoan Bridge article, Hoan Bridge: Tear Down Another Freeway in Milwaukee?.  While getting things wrong about the article, such as missing that I would maintain the highway as a spur out of the Marquette Interchange that would land east of the Milwaukee River, he did manage to get one point spot on.

“… it reduces the Lake Parkway into a conduit useful only for reaching downtown.”

Yes, my plan did take the existing, iconic Hoan Bridge and drop it to the ground as a conduit to downtown.  Patrick reports that 2/3’s of the cars on the Hoan Bridge actually use it for just that.  That’s 66% of the drivers using it just how I proposed to keep it.  With a polling number like that, a referendum among Hoan drivers for my plan looks like it would win in a landslide.

What do the other cars do?  Well they possibly go slightly west to Marquette or the Menomonee Valley, or they drive across some of the most expensive real estate in the state to reach Waukesha County.  According to Patrick’s stat, that’s 1/3 of the trips across the Hoan and 794 that likely start in a suburb of Milwaukee, go right through downtown Milwaukee, and end up in somewhere west of Milwaukee, like Waukesha County.

Now if you draw a line on a map from Cudahy to Waukesha you’ll notice it doesn’t go through downtown Milwaukee. Also, if you look at a photo of downtown Milwaukee you’ll notice there are big buildings, signifying amongst many other things, that the land is valuable.  However, the land immediately adjacent to the freeway is used for parking as the buildings turn their back on the concrete wall. My plan would replace the east-west freeway with a boulevard that would allow this land to be developed similar to the land immediately north and south of it (a large boost the Park East didn’t have). At the same time, my plan would still ensure quick and easy access to downtown jobs.

What my plan didn’t do was maintain the “Milwaukee bypass” that connects the southern suburbs with Waukesha County through downtown Milwaukee.  We have some different “suggestions” for that, including extending Interstate 894 east through St. Francis and Cudahy to reach the Lakefront Parkway.  That will still maintain what suburban commuters feel is critical freeway access to the western world.  I’ll explore possible routes for that in a future article.

Between being paranoid about a roundabout, changing my plans to eliminate the western part of 794 downtown, and spelling my name wrong again (Jeramey, not Jeremy), Patrick makes a few really good points.  Sixty-six percent of riders would not have their commute impaired, as the bridge would guide them their ultimate destination.  It will be nice for the City of Milwaukee to add to its tax base instead of serve as a bypass (something the Public Policy Forum probably thinks is a good thing after the study they recently released).  And my favorite…

“One hates to break it to the urbanists: The center of Milwaukee is not the center of the universe.”

To which my only response can be yes, that’s true, but why are you so determined to have people drive through it then?


28 thoughts on “Misconceptions on the Hoan”

  1. Patty says:

    There is more to life in and around Milwaukee than just Downtown. I use the bridge to get everywhere…downtown, Miller Park, work in Waukesha County, Brown Deer, other places of commerce…we have to think bigger than just Downtown, and we have to think bigger about how to make the Hoan something amazing and not just transportation.

  2. The Hoan is nothing amazing, and only provides transportation for a very limited subset of potential users. No bikes. No bus. No rail. No pedestrians. It eats up space and kills the downtown buzz. Don’t worry Bayviewers — we’ll find a way to get you back to your homes. But you won’t have to drive 150 feet in the air to do so.

  3. Jeramey Jannene says:

    @Patty You listed of all transportation uses, what do you propose to make it amazing that doesn’t involve transportation? Say like make the north end of the bridge not take up so much land?

    You can use I94 to get to work in Waukesha County.

    I’m all for thinking bigger than downtown, but that doesn’t include keeping a bypass through the heart of downtown. A bypass that in causes property taxes to go up in the City of Milwaukee by simply depressing the value of the adjacent.

  4. JoeW says:

    Paddy Mac’s response is unsurprising. It could have been predicted almost to the sentence. A rigid political ideologue, any possible measure he sees that so much as APPEARS to move the car away from the center of the transit universe triggers these instant reactions:

    1) Cars good.
    2) Freeways good.
    3) Wide freeways really good. Overbuilt freeways even better.
    4) Suburbs good. Lots of parking. Downtown ok to visit. Not enough parking. Must have quick way to leave it.

    Pat doesn’t understand induced traffic, or if he does, he willfully ignores decades of evidence documenting it. His lack of understanding of land values I can’t even begin to account for. I grew up in a western ‘burb and his mindset is instantly recognizable. I used to share it.

  5. Patty says:

    There has got to be a way that we can take the ease of use of the Hoan and make it better looking, more functional, and a destination, not just a place for 4 wheeled traffic. My dream? A safe path that I can use to walk to Summerfest, a beautiful tourist destination that I can take my out of town visitors on, a speedy way to get in and around town to all the destinations and attractions we have, and something that will WOW every person that sees it and uses it. What is “it?” I don’t know yet.

    Here are the real challenges: How do you get a profitable working Port to stop working? The City makes a lot of money off of the Port, and you can’t really move the Port. Can you really develop all that land under the Hoan? Brown fields, chemicals, chlorine tanks, salt residue, and a wide variety of other things needing remediation are under that brige. And what about the new PCB dredging that is going on in the KK River and being moved directly to the lakefront across from the Port and next to the Ferry? No development can happen there any time soon (25 years or more after the final scoop of PCBs? Something like that). WOW, was that a bad idea, but that’s a whole other blog.

    MMSD is another smelly animal that we have to consider. It’s really unfortunate that our City planners didn’t think far enough into the future. Putting the City’s sewage plant right on the Lakefont in the middle of all the action was not such a great idea. Will the MMSD ever allow a grade level road to go right through their plant? Will people want to develop buildings right next to it? Have you ever been at ground level and taken a good whiff? If you think it’s bad now when you drive over it on the Hoan, wait until you are nose to nose with those spinners.

    The Hoan has to be fixed. Taking this opportunity to think it all the way through and think Innovation, not just transportation, is the way to go. Everyone must come together to come up with the best possible solution, and that means the State and Local governments, the people who’s lives this will effect every day (and yes, I take the Hoan every day), and the groups who could be transformed by this change. Getting locked into a “Save the Hoan” mentality will only crush creativity. Think big. Think amazing. Think future.

  6. Jeramey Jannene says:

    @Patty Given the constraints, we’ve proposed a solution we think will work.

    We don’t think anyone will develop any of the Port of Milwaukee land, anytime soon, if ever. But they sure will develop land by the Lake Interchange and the Third Ward.

  7. Rob says:

    Once again, this idea that the Hoan is the only available option, and absolutely critical to getting around, is a blatant distortion. There would still be a (better) connection to downtown and there would still be I-94, just a few minutes to your west if you’re going to Waukesha.

    Anyone’s additional 5 minutes of time, including my own, is not worth $250,000,000. And arguing for continued highway welfare through misrepresentation is not going to further this discussion.

  8. KS says:

    Well don’t feel too bad about it, Patrick appears incapable of writing an opinion piece without blatantly mischaracterizing at least one situation or argument. His columns form the low bar to which I compare all others.

    I frankly don’t see why this has to be so controversial. The stretch of highway in question, from the landfall of the bridge to the Milwaukee River, is just about one mile long. One mile! Even with a reduced speed limit and a few intersections (at which the route would have priority), the net time difference between current and proposed routes could not exceed a few minutes.

    As far as forcing people to drive at grade through the sewage plant and severely limiting port access, these appear to be concoctions of those opposed to rebuilding the bridge rather than serious proposals. Any engineer worth his salary should be able to design well enough around these constraints. Willful ignorance perhaps?

  9. Patty says:

    KS, hardly ingnorance. Just wanting to make sure people consider all the obstacles. Can the be overcome? Absolutely. But lets make sure to examine all the options before any real decisions get made.

    My one comment about the idea of getting dropped off downtown and then just heading a few minutes west to get onto I-94…yeah, no. During the MU interchange work, there were many days where you could not get west from 794 to 94. The city streets could not handle the traffic, and even with the new entrances, the lock up point is on Michigan/Clyborne/St.Paul. That part of the engineer equation would absolutely need to be addressed.

    All I’m asking is that we think big..bigger than we are night now, bigger than we have before.

  10. Patty says:

    Jeramey, I missed the nice graphics on your earlier article. A boulevard could be a solution for the Downtown to west connection. I wonder what the traffic studies would say about that.

  11. Jeramey Jannene says:

    @Patty Well to get to 94, you should take city streets before getting downtown, then go west through the Marquette. If lights need to be synced in Bay View to make that work for you, so be it.

    Even under my proposal though you would land on the ground, go through a couple synced lights and would ramp back up onto 794, if you wanted to go downtown.

    Again though, it doesn’t make sense to have really expensive real estate covered by freeways. Go west first out of Bay View where there are roads in place that just might need to be fine-tuned.

  12. KS says:

    Patty. When people oppose a whole project based on single elements that haven’t been seriously proposed or studied, you have to question their motivations, or at least their intelligence. Building straw men skirts reasonable debate of the issue at hand. McIlheran is an expert at this- if the JS ever goes belly up, I suspect he can easily find a job making scarecrows.

    Concerns regarding capacity, port access, etc. are entirely valid and should be properly addressed by professionals. Then people can reasonably form their opinions. It’s disappointing to see people screaming and indignant over things that haven’t been studied or seriously considered.

  13. Patty says:

    Can I get a quick show of hands…who lives in Bay View? Jeramey? KS?

  14. Corrao says:

    What they did not mention is that they want the bridge down and all the businesses on Jones Island evicted so they can develope Jones Island into some luxury lake front homes and condos. The Port of Milwaukee is a strategic geographic location to receive the salt and coal used to keep the streets safe in winter and power up your homes with electricity. Where are the vessels going to deliver to if this is taken away? Someplace far away so the tax payers have to pay more in trucking costs because some moron has some idiotic developement SCAM in his head! Then after they build these expensive homes, shortly there after the people will begin to complain about the odor coming from the Sewage Treatment Plant. Then what, move that too. Those have to be some pretty good drugs these people are taking to want to pull of some stuff like this. Leave the bridge alone, fix it, it is good for the city. The rest of you idiots need to wake up and soon!

  15. I live in the Brady Street area, which I consider an integral part of the North Shore. [Definition: River to the West; Lake to the East.]
    North Shore to the Core!

  16. Dave Reid says:

    Not me I live downtown. But I wonder why it matters if I live in Bay View or Downtown? Because the ramps certainly impact my neighborhood, by blighting a very large area, by destroying the urban fabric, and by removing what should be very expensive land from the tax rolls (oh yes that impacts Bay View as well).

  17. Jeramey Jannene says:

    @Patty I live on the lower east side and work downtown, but does that make it any less relevant to me?

    @Corrao did you read the article? None of the suggestions we put forth in any way talked about developing Jones Island.

  18. There are no plans to eliminate the Port of Milwaukee for crying out loud, or the sewage treatment plant., or “develop” Jones Island into condos.

  19. Patty says:

    I was just checking to see how each persons perspective may effected based on where they live. I see the Hoan as my link to everything. I take it to work, downtown, points west and north. As a daily (sometimes multi-daily) user of the Hoan, I have to consider what my world will look like when changes are made to my main line of transportation. Sure, I can take I-94 to most of those places, but the view is much better from the Hoan!

  20. Nick says:

    On Monday I took the Hoan bridge, heading South at 5:30pm. WOW was it packed! What would happen with that traffic if we got rid of the bridge? Would it back all the way up into the city?

    I live in the city and do most things in the city, but I’m not going to support tearing down a freeway that is so packed during rush hour. (Don’t believe me? Drive it yourself).

    As far as ‘other’ forms of transportation, I also own a bike and take it South fairly often. The Oak Leaf Trail serves me just fine and I wind up at the foot of the Hoan. Oh, I suppose I go a little bit West in order to do that and it’s not completely direct, but as a cyclist, I find myself usually going out of the way a bit in order to take ‘safer’ routes versus routes that aren’t conducive to cycling, due to layout, traffic, hills, etc.

  21. Jeramey Jannene says:

    @Nick again, we’re not talking about tearing down the Hoan, we’re talking about just eliminating elevated connection to the interchange. You would still be able to use the Hoan from downtown.

  22. Jeramey Jannene says:

    @Patty You just made the case for why our plan makes sense. You can take 94 north and west. The view will be preserved for when you want to come downtown or take a slightly longer route to 94.

  23. Dave Reid says:

    @Nick No matter what the DOT decides there will still be a bridge, be it the Hoan or a lower bridge, there will still be a bridge. But the key is really the flyover ramps and reconfiguring the lake interchange, which can be accomplished by landing the Hoan earlier.

  24. KS says:

    Patty. I don’t live in Bay View. Not that it would matter. I don’t drive and can’t use the bridge anyway. Besides, my problem isn’t that people have concerns with the proposal. Those who are impacted have every right to have their voice heard. My problem is that we have no solid proposals, yet people are outraged over specifics, often on completely fictitious grounds. Corrao illustrates this perfectly. A middle solution serving both commuters and downtown is possible, though many seem unwilling to give it fair consideration.

  25. KS says:

    Also, after thinking about all this, what if one were to consider an alternate history where things played out a little differently. Suppose the local opposition that led to the “bridge to nowhere” name had been more successful, that the Hoan bridge was never built (or a smaller bridge was built in its place), and that 794 ended more or less at Lincoln Memorial.

    Imagine then if things had played out much as they actually have, that Downtown, after decades of stagnation, started to show signs of life (after 5pm) and that the Third Ward underwent a complete transformation. Imagine that the surface parking lots were slowly filling and that the city was finally gaining population and a positive reputation, thanks in part to its lake front, which was shaping up to be a top class amenity. Imagine then if someone proposed building the Hoan.

    Would we really consider it wise to build a massive bridge connecting to a short parkway that itself runs parallel to a freeway? Would a few minutes shaved off a commute, and a nice view along the way, be worth risking the above positives? Would the proposed bridge be met with the same outrage surrounding the proposal to tear down the Hoan? Not sure how everyone else would answer these questions, but they make it pretty clear to me that it’s not the best idea to spend a large chunk of money keeping the freeway (and our bisected Downtown) as is.

  26. Rob says:

    I walked, biked, bussed and drove from Bay View to downtown, and vice versa, every day for over a year and half before recently moving to the Yankee Hill area. For most of that time, I preferred taking KK to 1st St. because it’s just as convenient, if not more, for getting around downtown. But, I did use the Hoan frequently during that time and in the years that I’ve lived in the city proper.

    Patty, I completely agree that we need to think about this idea in bigger and better ways, I only wish more of the people who are concerned about it were trying to have a rational a discussion as you are. We should ask questions, comment on perceived disadvantages and generally spark discussion about what we’re going to do to make any Hoan redevelopment better for everyone. But, that discussion cannot take place if there is no honest debate and we’re still not to that point as evidenced by some of the other commenters.

    There’s no mention of removing the Port in the proposal, only scaling back its footprint based upon the fact that significant portions of Jones Island are abandoned. The study even suggested that the infill area near the Ferry could be used as park space/marina, But nowhere in it was it ever expressed that these proposals are anything but educated suggestions for better use of the land. And further, the study fleshed out two possibilities for the entire area: one maximizing the public benefit (parks, etc.) and one maximizing the development possibilities. Neither idea is set in stone — it’s just a study — but the actual report is a profound step toward making informed choices about what we want the city to be for residents and commuters alike.

  27. Kadius says:

    Someone should shoot a movie that requires an exploding bridge, then we could just blow it up.

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