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“People are really concerned:” Lawmakers submit letter to DOT, wonder whether crash over Hoan was preventable

MILWAUKEE -- Three South Shore lawmakers are questioning whether government bureaucrats could've prevented the death of a 27-year Milwaukee man whose truck plunged off the Hoan Bridge on Monday, December 19th.

State Reps. Christine Sinicki and Jonathan Brostoff, along with state Sen. Chris Larson, are asking the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to investigate whether the newly reconstructed bridge's retaining walls are tall enough. The lawmakers are also concerned that snow plowing techniques created "ramps of snow" along the bridge's sides that enabled the fatal crash.

Hoan Bridge

Hoan Bridge

"People are really concerned," Larson said in an interview. "Even going down to an elementary school and speaking to the kids, you could tell they were concerned because they had seen and heard about this."

Christopher Weber, 27, was a graduate of Delavan-Darien High School and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He was born in Seoul, South Korea. His pickup went over the edge of the Hoan Bridge in icy conditions, landing 30 to 40 feet below on the vehicle's roof.

Christopher Weber (PHOTO: Delavan Funeral Home)

Christopher Weber (PHOTO: Delavan Funeral Home)

The Hoan Bridge underwent reconstruction in 2014 and 2015. Since it reopened, people in Bay View have voiced concerns that the side retaining walls were rebuilt shorter, Larson said.

Senator Chris Larson

Senator Chris Larson

Daniel Sellers, a spokesman for the state Department of Transportation, said the agency had no one available to answer questions about the retaining walls Monday.

"The experts needed to answer the questions are out of the office. Once back, we'd be happy to provide the information," Sellers said in an email response to a request for comment.

In a December 23rd letter to the DOT, the three lawmakers said a combination of wind and ice could send "multiple vehicles over the retaining wall" someday. They said they want the DOT to consider installing taller guardrails and warning signs.

Letter to DOT over retaining walls on Hoan Bridge

Letter to DOT over retaining walls on Hoan Bridge

"We’re not talking about re-doing the bridge. We’re talking about possibly saving somebody’s life," said Sinicki, who regularly drives on the bridge. "If you`re up there in high winds or stormy weather, it`s dangerous."

The lawmakers said they believed piled snow created so-called "snow ramps" that could lead more vehicles over the edge in future icy conditions.

Rep. Christine Sinicki

Rep. Christine Sinicki

But Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele disputed the lawmakers' assumption about the ramp effect. The county salts and plows the Hoan Bridge at the state's request.

Chris Abele

Chris Abele

"It was a tragic accident, but it had nothing to do with snow ramps. Snow ramps -- honestly, I heard this from the press -- it`s not something that comes up because it`s not something that happens," Abele said.

The Hoan Bridge was built in the early 1970s and opened to traffic in 1977. It underwent major reconstruction after a portion of the span buckled and nearly collapsed in December 2000.

 

Hoan Bridge

Hoan Bridge

Hoan Bridge

Hoan Bridge

FOX6 News has also requested records regarding decisions made in the reconstruction of the bridge.

11 comments

  • Sirius

    As an individual who drives over the Hoan bridge 5 days a week, 2 times a day, let me ask you this:
    As there is no break in the retaining wall, how did Mr. Weber go over the bridge without the plowed snow acting as a ramp Mr. Abele? Please explain HOW, as the TRUTH is not something that will be forgotten.
    Just because you SAY it is safe does not MEAN it is safe.

  • Sirius

    Mr. Abele should contain his fork-tongue rhetoric about such an incomprehensible accident—perhaps his tens of millions of dollars his family bequeathed him should help him learn a thing or two about physics one-oh-one. Tutor the rich?

  • Jim

    I’ll ruin the surprise here. When FOX 6 receives the “records” for the bridge reconstruction here, they’ll be shocked I’m sure to learn that it was built in accordance with nationally recognized standards from AASHTO. Through many years of testing and improvements on best practices, a code council has determined what the appropriate parapet height would be for a bridge of this type. People are going to complain that the walls aren’t tall enough here…so are they indicating they’re willing to pay more taxes & fees to spend even more money on road projects? By the same logic, you could ask the auto maker why they don’t use a stronger metal in their car frames so that people are better protected in accidents? Don’t get me wrong, this is a tragedy and accidents do truly happen. At some point, common sense has to kick in, decisions have to be made, and standards needed to be established, all within reason. Also, when is the sheriff’s office going to release the speed of the vehicle when it lost control?

    • Sirius

      It clearly is not the construction of the retaining wall, it is the lack of time spent/proper salting of the bridge/continuous maintenance.

    • Sirius

      The fact of the matter is not the height of the retention wall. It is the lack of maintenence in behalf of the city of Milwaukee’s DOT. Tax dollars spent on WHAT? We pay taxes for a service, this is one of those services, it is proper representation. Give me a GD break. Time to OPEN your eyes.

      • Jim

        I agree, the wall isn’t the issue here. County funds are so poorly managed that there’s nothing left for road maintenance. My suspicion is that the county workers are pinched with how much snow they could plow over the bridge since there’s potential for buildings, cars, and people they could hit below. They would almost need an end loader to haul it away in dump trucks. Whatever changes are done, just don’t ask for help from the city employees….we all know they can’t plow since the street width is always reduced by half during a snowstorm.

  • Greg

    I thought the snow ramp was just a made up idea, however I ended up driving over the bridge a few hours after the vehicle went over the side. The east facing side had a perfect ramp of ice built up from the top of the concrete to the roadway. This was from plowed snow, and appeared to be mostly ice due to refrezing of the snow. Without a doubt the truck I was driving would have launched off the bridge if I had hit it at a angle.

    My honest opinion is that the bridge is not safe if they choose to pile snow on the outside edges. There will be a repeat fatality unless they change their snow management plan (which is to plow to the edge and let the snow dump over to the ground below) or they install guardrail pipes that will allow some snow to be pushed off the bridge without having a ramp.

    The concrete barrier system is likely fine as it sits provided they remove the snow that increases the height a vehicle strikes the side at.

  • Pants up / don't loot

    The 27th st viaduct has a much taller barrier and a car still went over last year because the of the way the city plowed the snow, it caused the vehicle to get airborne, which I assume happened here because the car left the bridge.

  • Jeff hog

    This is a unfortunate incident. But people, Really!!!!!! SLOW THE F— DOWN! This bleeding heart s–t don’t cut it, and a lot of people are fed up with this bleeding heart, snowflake bulls–t. It will come out the man was traveling to fast for conditions! Get a clue and pull your head out of your stink h–.

Comments are closed.