Graham Kilmer
MKE County

Do County Parks Have Too Many Bridges?

System has 170 pedestrian bridges, spends millions per year maintaining them.

By - Oct 10th, 2023 11:13 am
Washington Park Lagoon Bridge. Milwaukee County Parks.

Washington Park Lagoon Bridge. Milwaukee County Parks.

Milwaukee County Parks is once again seeking funding for bridge repairs, replacement and closures in 2024.

Since 2022, the department has been working to clear up more than $1 million worth of immediate maintenance needs identified at pedestrian bridges around the parks system. This funding has gone to repair, replace and close bridges around the parks system.

The 2024 recommended budget from County Executive David Crowley included approximately $700,000 for bridge projects in county parks. The county had previously allocated more than $900,000 for pedestrian bridge projects.

The focus in recent budgets on pedestrian bridges stems from a survey conducted in 2021. At the time, Parks only had a general idea of how many pedestrian bridges there were across the system. In order to plan for the maintenance of the infrastructure, the department needed to first get a grasp of what was out there.

The department ended up finding more than 170 pedestrian bridges. It didn’t count vehicular bridges, which are managed and inspected by the Milwaukee County Department of Transportation.

“It’s likely that we are overextended in how many bridges we own,” Sarah Toomsen, Parks planning and development manager told county supervisors in 2021. “So I see hard choices ahead.”

Parks has been struggling against a massive backlog of infrastructure maintenance estimated at close to $500 million. Recently, the department has begun to pursue a policy of demolition for old and unused buildings to save money on maintenance and heating costs.

And bridge projects can be big-ticket items. It cost approximately $3.4 million to rehabilitate the historic Ravine Road Bridge, after it sat closed to the public for six years due to safety concerns. Parks has already budgeted $1.4 million to replace two bridges over the Washington Park Lagoon, with construction scheduled for 2024.

Between 2021 and 2023, Parks has spent nearly $6 million just on bridges.

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Categories: MKE County

One thought on “MKE County: Do County Parks Have Too Many Bridges?”

  1. Dennis Grzezinski says:

    Sadly, while the state has been spending billions and billions of dollars rebuilding and expanding major highways in the Milwaukee area, it has starved the budgets of our cities and counties for the last couple of decades — to the point where many of the bridges that enable pedestrians and bikers to enjoy the trails and paths in our beautiful parks have deteriorated to the point that they need replacing. The real boondoggle isn’t these small bridge replacement projects — it is the state’s proposal to spend what will probably be almost $1.5 billion to rebuild and expand I-94 between the Zoo and Marquette interchanges. This will take up about 40 more acres of land in the city for highway use than already exists. More traffic, more air pollution more noise, more traffic deaths on the highway — just read the state’s own environmental impact statement. All this, to shorten suburban commuting times by perhaps a minute or so for a few years, until the added lanes encourage more rush-hour commuting and bring back the “congestion” problem the expansion is claimed to solve.

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