Frank's Folly: Tearing Down The Hoan?
I'd say that it's like trying to put lipstick on a pig - but that phrase has been somewhat overused recently.
Regardless, at I wrote a month ago, Wisconsin Department of Transportation Secretary Frank Busalacchi's trial balloon about tearing down the Hoan Bridge is an idea that - if it were any dumber - would bark! The fact that Busalacchi has just blown $175,000 in taxpayer money for a "study" designed to justify the plan doesn't make it any better. It simply makes Busalacchi look even more irresponsible.
This new "study" produced by a consulting outfit called HNTB and commissioned by the DOT at a cost of $175,000 (!) claims that tearing down the Hoan Bridge would lead to $5.7 billion in develpment on land under the Hoan and the creation of over 8000 jobs. Right - and I promise that I'll love you in the morning.
By the way, HNTB executives are enormous campaign contributors to Jim Doyle. I'm certain though that any link between these contributions and the fact that Busalacchi chose HNTB to be the beneficiary of $175,000 in taxpayer largess was purely coincidental. By the way, did I remember to tell you that I promise to love you in the morning?
The basic idea is that if you tear down the Hoan Bridge and install streets, commercial and residential development will flock to the area under the bridge. This is the same area that is, of course, in the immediate proximity of Milwaukee's sewage treatment plant. Forgive me if I'm somewhat skeptical about the number of people wanting to purchase $500,000 condos in the shadow of Jones Island.
Actually the claims being made about the area under the Hoan are eerily reminiscent of the claims that were made by the Norquist Administration about the area under the Park East Freeway. Remember how we were promised that if we took down the freeway, we'd see an explosion of development? Well, the only exposions you see recently in that area come from the destruction of abandoned buildings.
Six years after demolition, large portions of the Park East Freeway corridor remain nothing more than a moonscape. Sort of a "Baghdad of the Beerline".
Why you'd consider tearing down an even more utilized roadway like the Hoan Bridge is, in a word, crazy!
If you tear down a perfectly good bridge and build roads, I concede that it will create jobs. By that logic though, why not tear down Miller Park and then rebuild it? That would create jobs too - and would make just about as much sense.
Residents of the area seem to consider "Frank's Folly" as pretty much of a non-starter. Good. We've had a lot of ill-considered public works projects around the area recently (think of the acoustically outstanding but largely vacant $42 million white elephant that we call the Milwaukee Theater). The last thing we need is one more!