Controversy brewing over Hoan Bridge lighting plan

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- When the Wisconsin DOT unveiled details of its plan to rehab the Hoan Bridge, it literally shed some light on the subject. The plan includes nearly $1 million for colored lighting. One state lawmaker says that part of the plan should be "lights out."

"When I saw the plan, I thought, yeah that will be neat.  What a cool idea for downtown Milwaukee," State Rep. John Jagler (R - Watertown) said.

Jagler liked everything about the idea -- except the price tag. The LED lighting on the iconic arches would cost $1 million.

"State dollars, woah?  Then I saw how much it is, up to a million dollars, and that doesn't include maintenance and we're going to bond for it?  That's a no go," Jagler said.

The lighting budget is just a sliver of the $278 million Hoan Bridge project to redeck and paint the bridge.

"This is the time to do it. We're doing the work on the bridge and if we're going to make changes it may as well be done along with the regular work on the bridge," State Rep. Christine Sinicki (D - Milwaukee) said.

Rep. Sinicki says the lights would enhance the Hoan Bridge.

"Right now, when it's dark out you really can't see the beauty of the bridge.  You see the lights around it, but you don't see the beauty of the bridge.  I think to add lights to those arches that I've always thought were boring and plain I think would really enhance the whole Milwaukee experience," Rep. Sinicki said.

Jagler's concern goes beyond the aesthetics. Construction of a roundabout at a dangerous intersection in his district has been delayed.

"This intersection right behind me is Highway 16 in Ixonia where people have died. The DOT came in and said we need to improve safety here. That project has been put on hold for one year. Why? Because of funding. That funding amount for the lighting is the exact same amount as the project that's needed behind me," Rep. Jagler said.

"Yes, safety issues should come before any type of aesthetic issues, but at the same time we waited years to get this bridge re-deck approved. We fought hard for it," Rep. Sinicki said.

Sinicki says both projects should be funded and delaying the Hoan lighting project could end up costing more in the long run.

Jagler has introduced an amendment to the state budget that would eliminate funding for the Hoan Bridge lights.