Lake Park Bridge Funding Secured
State funds will help restore Ravine Road Bridge, with some left over for Brown Deer Park.
The Milwaukee County Board is moving to accept a $2 million grant from the state to restore the dilapidated bridge, and will likely finalize a contract with engineering firm Olsen & Nesvold Engineering to design the restoration project at the next board meeting. And the cherry on top, for some county constituents, is that the state grant freed up monies to be spent on another parks project on the county’s woefully long backlog.
The more than 110 year old bridge was closed in 2016 when the county’s engineering and risk management departments advocated shutting it down. The bridge was not in immediate danger of collapse, but cautiously closing the bridge before a large congregation of people happened to test its strength was the final decision.
Since then, the county, already strapped for cash and with no dedicated streams of revenue for parks, has been searching for the money to fix the bridge. At one point, the county in partnership with Lake Park Friends was accepting private donations up to $2 million to fix the bridge. Then in September 2018 the state awarded the county a $2 million Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) grant. Now, those funds, plus roughly half a million in general obligation bonds will finance the repair of the bridge.
Wasserman sponsored the resolution accepting the TAP funds and recognizing Lake Park Friends for their work raising $877,000 to help fund the bridge. The TAP funds will supplant the private funding.
County Board Chair Theodore Lipscomb, Sr. submitted an amendment last week at a meeting of the Parks, Energy and Environment Committee that will move funds freed up by the grant to another project. The county had the authority to spend approximately $1,030,500 in general obligation bonds on the Ravine Bridge repair. Lipscomb’s amendment takes $530,800 of that bonding authority and moves it to a project in Brown Deer Park. Though Lipscomb admitted he has constituents that abut the park, the project is in Sup. Sequanna Taylor’s district.
That project is part of the ongoing, piecemeal reconstruction of roadways in the park. Lipscomb and Chairman of the Parks, Energy and Environment Committee, Sup. Jason Haas, said a rough rule of thumb for road replacement is $1 million a mile. So, under Lipscomb’s amendment, the county will get work done on approximately half a mile of roadway in the park.
“Even with this, this is gonna continue to take a few years of biting this off piece by piece,” Lipscomb said. Guy Smith, Chief of Operations for the County Parks Department, said it would cost $4.2 million to complete all the needed work in Brown Deer Park at once — a funding request the board even wouldn’t take a swing at.
Ravine bridge work soon to be underway is great news, and more work advancing on a capital project elsewhere is a nice kicker. But these small victories glow against the dark backdrop of the county’s financial state, where revenue shortfalls have produced a massive backlog of deferred maintenance and capital projects for the parks system. A backlog the Wisconsin Policy Forum once described as “seemingly insurmountable,” in a report detailing the pit of deferred capital maintenance and repair that grows deeper each year.
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