A few years ago, Governor Jim “Craps” Doyle (WEAC/HoChunk-For Sale) and Milwaukee Mayor Tom “Milk Carton” Barrett conspired to delay the rebuilding of the Zoo Interchange, which links I-94, the northwest terminus of I-894, and US-45, in order to focus on rebuilding and widening the stretch of I-94 between the Mitchell Interchange (just north of the airport, which links I-94/US-41, the southeast terminus of I-894, and I-43) and the Wisconsin-Illinois state line. Indeed, with the effective elimination of funding for engineering work in the FY2010-2011 budget, the delayed target start date of 2014 was considered ambitious.
In August, the Department of Transportation placed weight limits on three of the bridges in the interchange due to deterioration:
- The northbound US-45 bridge over eastbound I-94 – 30 tons (3/4ths of the 40-ton national legal limit)
- The bridge connecting southbound US-45 and eastbound I-94 over westbound I-94 and US-45 – 35 tons
- The bridge connecting northbound I-894/US-45 to westbound I-94 over eastbound I-94 and southbound I-894/US-45 – 40 tons (which precludes use by any trucks with overweight permits)
Now, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is reporting that the DOT has issued a call for bids for the emergency replacement of those three bridges because follow-up inspections revealed that the three structures wouldn’t last until even 2012 as the supports are cracked and corroded. The estimated cost is somewhere between $12 million and $22 million, depending on how the replacements are done, with anticipated completion by Memorial Day weekend 2010.
Complicating matters are the closure requirements:
- No closures affecting more than one bridge at any time
- Except for a single weekend full closure per bridge, all shoulder or single-lane closures must be between 11 pm and 5 am
Given the other bridges in and just south of the interchange are of the same age, I have to wonder whether they’ll last until they’re replaced sometime after 2014.