Milwaukee County Parks
Press Release

County Parks To Seek State Grant to Fund Ravine Road Bridge Project

The goal of the project is to preserve the historical character of Lake Park by replacing the bridge with a structure that closely matches its original architecture and design.

By - Feb 8th, 2018 03:09 pm
Ravine Road Bridge in Lake Park. Photo by Dave Reid.

Ravine Road Bridge in Lake Park. Photo by Dave Reid.

MILWAUKEE – Milwaukee County Parks has applied for a $1.5m grant from the Wisconsin Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) program to help fund replacement of the Ravine Road Bridge in Lake Park.

The goal of the project is to preserve the historical character of Lake Park by replacing the bridge with a structure that closely matches its original architecture and design. A 20-member Ravine Road Bridge committee, as well as public workgroups, selected replacement of the bridge, in-kind, as the preferred alternative for addressing the deterioration of the bridge.

If Milwaukee County does not receive the TAP grant funding, other options, including repairs, will still be considered.

The Ravine Road Bridge, designed by the Milwaukee architecture firm, Ferry and Clas, was constructed in 1906 to span one of the several large ravines in Lake Park. After a conditions assessment in 2014, which identified increased cracking in the concrete bridge, the bridge and the drive below it (Ravine Road) were closed. Replacement of the bridge, as proposed in the TAP grant application, would resolve the safety issues and allow for bike and pedestrian transportation across the bridge and vehicles to again use Ravine Drive under the bridge.

Applications for the 2018-2022 cycle of TAP grants were due on January 26, 2018. Applications will now be assessed by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation and announcements on winning projects will be made by Governor Scott Walker in July or August. In 2017, Milwaukee County also committed $500,000 towards an expected $2.5 million budget for the project.

The 20-member Ravine Road Bridge work group consisted of Milwaukee County staff from the County Board, Parks, and Administrative Services, engineering consultants GRAEF and Malas Engineering, UW-Milwaukee School of Architecture and Urban Planning, historical consultant Heritage Research, City of Milwaukee Historic Preservation Commission, Milwaukee County Historical Society, the State Historical Preservation Commission, Lake Park Friends, Preserve Our Parks, Historic Water Tower Neighborhood, and North Point Lighthouse Friends. Two public meetings were held to inform the community of the study, to present alternatives, and to receive feedback.

Ravine Road Bridge in Lake Park

More about the Ravine Road Bridge Project

9 thoughts on “Plenty of Horne: Bridge Over Troubled Finances”

  1. Marie says:

    Thanks for this thorough report, Michael and UM! At one point this year the County Board was trying to set aside money for this looming repair. Does anyone know what happened to that plan?

    Also, what’s with government efforts to keep citizens in the dark on major public works projects, especially involving parks? It also appears the City did no mass press release about the designs submitted at the end of June for the Lakefront Gateway project–a new park and pedestrian bridge from downtown to the lakefront. It’s been hailed as a major transformative project, and there was a website to solicit public input. You just had to be in the know or catch an article by an intrepid writer about the designs and website. The selection committee of “stakeholders” has reportedly already chosen a design.

    A little transparency and real community engagement will go a long way. Top-down fiats are passe.

  2. NealB says:

    Was the bridge originally designed for automobile use? If the bridge dates from 1905, it’s possible the original design meant to accommodate some motorized traffic, but it seems unlikely.

    If the original design of the bridge was for pedestrian only use, certainly a replacement likewise limited exclusively to pedestrian use and matching most of the architectural elements of the original could be constructed for far less than the $2.6 million estimate provided here. The only reason the estimate quoted here is so high is because the new design would not be a replacement pedestrian bridge, but one that would hugely overbuild it to accommodate heavy service and patrol vehicles.

    Keep the new design consistent with the original purpose of the bridge as part of the network of pedestrian thoroughfares in the park and the cost could be greatly reduced. In short, keep it consistent with the historic nature of the park, including the bridge’s original functional purpose.

  3. TF says:

    Is this the bridge where a semi truck got stuck?

  4. Marie says:

    @TF: No, that was the “lions” bridge south of the Lake Park Bistro parking lot, which was fixed courtesy of insurance. This bridge is north of the Bistro.

  5. Barbara says:

    Correct structure rehab is $1.8 million. The two less expensive options are $1.5 and $1.6 million. This type of repair should be covered by capital borrowing, i.e. bonding. The difference between rehab and the substitutes is between $200k and $300k. That amount is negligible in terms of government bonding cost.

    I don’t see the problem here. The county should do this job right for an historic Frederick Law Olmsted structure. If the park is a designated historic district perhaps there is some federal historic assistance available besides. If not, get the park designated. It should be, regardless.

  6. M says:

    For $800,000 more than the rehab cost of $1.8 million, they could do an authentic-looking bridge that will last 55-60 years longer. I hope they will consider that long-term solution rather than just a 15-20 year band-aid (or something ugly that will rattle Olmsted in his grave). Infrastructure is supposed to be built with future generations in mind.

  7. Barbara says:


  8. E Beckard says:

    Michael a pubic interest meeting to form Friends Of Cathedral Square Park is being held on Thursday, October 22 @5:30 p.m. at the Business Journal Building on Jefferson St. Hope you can attend.

  9. Jeffrey says:

    Let’s not just kick the can down the road a bit. To get the proper funding and do it right, I would even consider selling naming rights. Looking for options….

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