MILWAUKEE — After more than a year of work, the Juneau Avenue Bridge in downtown Milwaukee is re-opening… kind of. Drivers and pedestrians can use it, but boats can’t.
A ribbon-cutting was scheduled Wednesday morning, November 14th to officially mark the bridge’s reopening, but city officials decided to call it off after the hydraulics to the bridge malfunctioned, prohibiting the bridge’s ability to open and close.
“Unfortunately, we had an incident. It’s a very little incident that took place a-day-and-a-half ago. We’re not sure what the extent and the consequences of that incident is,” Ghassan Korban, Milwaukee’s Commissioner of Public Works said.
Contractors are now working to make the necessary adjustments and repairs. The celebration was postponed until further notice, but Korban stressed the structure is safe, and people will be able to drive and walk across the bridge starting at 5 p.m. Wednesday.
“It is safe. The motorists and pedestrians would not know any difference. We want to be comfortable that it’s all operable and then we will celebrate it,” Korban said.
The nearly 60-year-old bridge was ripped down last August and entirely re-built. The new design is a vertical lift, mirroring the Knapp Street bridge to the north.
Although the bridge isn’t operating to river traffic just yet, businesses along Juneau Ave. are breathing a sigh of relief that patrons will no longer have to deal with detours and street closures.
“It’s been a challenge for the last year. It definitely reduced foot traffic and also automobile traffic, so I think some of those patterns are going to change now,” Matt Schmidt, Director of Operations for Trinity Three Irish Pubs, Harp Irish Pub and Water Street Brewery said.
For those who live on the other side of the Milwaukee River, the bridge’s opening will provide better access and more convenience when it comes to getting across town.
“Now I won’t have to go all the way around it and everything. It’ll be nice,” Clair Jacques, who lives just west of the river said.
City officials hope to have the bridge fully operational in one to three weeks. Despite the slight hiccup, they say the project’s completion is still on time and budget.