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