Sometimes the public and political pressure builds up so much that even those in the bureaucratic snake pits have to stand up and notice.

That is what seems to have happened in  Madison yesterday as the Wisconsin Department of Transportation announced it would immediately begin the necessary repairs and engineering inspections of the Hoan Bridge. The work is expected to be completed in 2011.

An in-depth inspection of the bridge will begin next week, to provide information for a complete replacement of the concrete deck and structural repairs. The DOT is estimating that the inspection will cost $650,000 and will be completed by the end of this year.

Bids will be let out for the construction of the deck in September, with construction beginning in October. The total cost of the deck repair is expected to range between $12 and $17 million dollars.

Milwaukee County Supervisor Marina Dimitrijevic was told the money would come from ‘transportation funds,” but not from the surplus $100 million from the Federal Transportation Fund received last week. A DOT spokesperson said the money will come from the 2011 Statewide Maintenance Appropriation, which total $202 million. He said they will work within that budget to complete the Hoan repairs and others throughout the state.

Dimitrijevic, a member of the Coalition to Save the Hoan, is pleased that the state has decided to make the repairs and do an inspection on the bridge.

“We’ve been wanting, for a very long time, for any repair work to be done,” she said “we are glad there is going to be some work done.”

“We are also very happy to see an inspection scheduled. This will finally give us real numbers for repairs,” she said in a telephone interview.

DOT Secretary Frank Busalacchi has been bombarded with petitions and requests from the CSH and other citizens to repair the bridge and replace the deck over the past year, but it fell on deaf ears as anidea to raze the Hoan and replace it with a lift-style bridge at the harbor was floated past the public .

Dimitrijevic thinks the change of heart on the state’s part came after plastic netting was installed under the Hoan to catch large chunks of cement falling from it.

“Our priority is to keep the Hoan Bridge structurally sound and safe for the traveling public,” Busalacchi said. “The department has an active process for maintenance and inspection of bridges. The Hoan Bridge continues to receive the same high level of uncompromised attention as other structures around the state.”

That’s not saying much when 2,020 of Wisconsin’s bridges are considered structurally deficient (posted for lower speeds and lighter vehicles) or functionally obsolete (may not be designed for current traffic volumes or vehicle weights). Much of that is due to delayed maintenance by the state DOT.

The announcement of the Hoan repairs leads Dimitrijevic to believe the idea of replacing the bridge with an at-grade road and drawbridge is dead on arrival.

“This signifies that we are definitely keeping the Hoan Bridge,” she said. “The people really depend on it in the Third Ward, Bay View and the far southside suburbs.”

State Rep. Jon Richards (D-Milwaukee) said, “I applaud the Department of Transportation’s work to begin the repairs and engineering review of the Hoan Bridge. This must be the beginning and not the final steps in a thorough process to ensure that the bridge is repaired completely, as quickly as possible and with as much federal assistance as possible.”

The DOT was scheduled to open bids yesterday on a contract to install and repair netting beneath the bridge. It is not known if that project will continue as planned.

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