Racine Street Bridge is located on the Menasha Channel of the Fox River downstream from Lake Winnebago in the city of Menasha, Winnebago County.
The existing bridge was constructed in 1952 and is nearing its service life. While the bridge is still safe for vehicular travel, a recent investigation of the bridge has identified a number of issues that need to be addressed. WisDOT is leading an environmental study that is investigating a wide range of improvement alternatives including:
- No-build alternative
- Rehabilitating the existing bridge
- Replacing the bridge on the existing location
- Replacing the bridge on a new location
- Preferred alternative (Alternative J – bridge replacement - new alignment) determined in late 2015.
- Completion of environmental study targeted for spring/summer 2017.
- Bridge construction is scheduled to begin in summer 2020. Completion of construction for preferred replacement alternative is expected in late 2022.
Why is this project needed?
While the bridge is safe for use, there are numerous deficiencies with the existing bridge that need to be addressed. The Racine Street Bridge is one of only two river crossings connecting Doty Island with the city of Menasha central business district. It accommodates 10,000 vehicles per day, while also providing a vital connection for pedestrian and bicycle traffic in the downtown area.
Any bridge improvement must address structural and geometric deficiencies of the existing bridge; maintain safe access and passage for all users including bicyclists; pedestrians; individuals with disabilities; waterway traffic and motor vehicles; meet transportation demand; and comply with all state, regional and local plans.
Current bridge deficiencies
Most of the primary elements of the bridge’s structural, electrical, and mechanical systems are original. As the bridge ages, the frequency of major repairs is expected to increase. While annual inspections have determined the bridge is still safe for travel, the Racine Street Bridge has been rated as deficient based on a number of factors including those listed below.
- 30-foot curb-to-curb width for three travel lanes is quite narrow for motor vehicles and less than the desirable standard. Narrow width is further complicated by a roadway curve at the north bridge approach.
- Bridge profile doesn’t meet desirable criteria.
- Bridge experiences high bicycle and pedestrian usage. The lack of any bicycle lanes across the bridge require bicyclists to either share narrow roadway lanes with motor vehicles or share the sidewalk with pedestrians, complicated by limited visibility and narrow pedestrian passage near the operator house.
- Lack of bicycle and pedestrian accommodations across the bridge presents an obstacle to city plans to create a riverwalk loop along both sides of the river.
- Snow is often pushed up onto sidewalks during winter months due to lack of a shoulder area.
- Existing bridge has somewhat limited clearance which requires more frequent openings for boat traffic and leads to an increase in downtown traffic congestion. Overall boat traffic and associated bridge openings has increased in recent years.
Specific structural, electrical, or mechanical deficiencies
- The steel grid roadway deck is original and more than 60 years old. It is worn and requires frequent weld repairs due to cracking of bars. Traction is poor.
- Rear brake in the deck of the north leaf experiences binding.
- The center roadway brakes still function adequately but are heavily worn.
- The track and tread castings that the bridge rolls on exhibit significant signs of wear.
- The steel rack frames that support the fixed rack gears are in poor condition.
- The fender system is in poor condition. Timbers are cracked and splitting.
- Operator house is functionally obsolete.
- Machinery brakes still function adequately but are obsolete.
- Machinery bearing bushings have a moderate amount of wear.
Benefits of various replacement options
Any bridge replacement option provides:
- Safety – A desirable width and profile that should improve safety for all users. Replacement options increase the bridge width to accommodate 11-foot travel lanes as well as 5-foot bicycle lanes and 6-foot sidewalks on both sides.
- Improved traffic flow/boat passage – Allows for the inclusion of an auxiliary navigation channel with greater clearance immediately south of the bascule span. This auxiliary channel allows more boats to pass under the bridge without requiring operation of the bascule span. There is less delay for boaters and less traffic congestion in the downtown area from bridge openings.
- Improved multi-modal opportunities – Better accommodations for bicycle and pedestrian travel and links to the planned riverwalks on both shores.
- Less future impact – An improvement that will extend the bridge life roughly 75 years before the next major bridge improvement is required. Under a rehabilitation scenario, a complete replacement could be postponed for approximately 40 years but will still be required at that point.
- Aesthetics – An opportunity for some aesthetic enhancements to the appearance of a new bridge.
Benefits of rehabilitation option
Cost – Based on initial study estimates, a rehabilitation option addresses the bridge structural deficiencies at a lower initial cost than the replacement options.
Real Estate – A rehabilitation option requires less real estate than any replacement option that involves a new alignment.
Bill Bertrand, WisDOT Project Manager
Charles Karow, WisDOT Project Supervisor
Mark Kantola, WisDOT Northeast Region Communications Manager
Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT)
944 Vanderperren Way
Green Bay, WI 54304
Phone: (920) 492-5643
Fax: (920) 492-5640