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Southern De Pere bridge could move forward

By Lee Reinsch

DE PERE – Pending environmental studies, headaches for those traveling over the Fox River in rush-hour traffic could be on their way to alleviation.

A second bridge between the east and west sides could be just the panacea, according to some.

The De Pere Common Council got an update on the long-awaited southern bridge project from Cole Runge, principal transportation planner for the Brown County Planning Commission and director of the Brown County Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) on May 21.

The project would create another bridge over the Fox River and a divided four-lane arterial street corridor between the intersection of County Highways GV and X in the Town of Ledgeview and the intersection of County Highways EB and F in the Town of Lawrence, Runge said.

The project could also include a new full-access interchange at Interstate 41.

The Federal Highway Administration in March approved traffic studies done last year and concurred with a long-held opinion on the location.

“All of the entities involved (DOT, Federal Highway Administration, and Brown County) agree that the only viable alternative for the future in terms of handling future projected traffic volume is with the new bridge at Rockland and Red Maple roads, with the new interchange (at) Southbridge Road and I-41,” Runge said.

That location isn’t final and could change based on environmental findings, he said.

Environmental studies are underway and should be finished by May or June of next year.

After that, bridge design is expected to take two years, and then work could start on the bridge in 2022 or 2023, Runge said.

And it wouldn’t be done overnight.

“We’re assuming we’ll have to do it in five phases, starting west and working east until we’re finished, and we would expect to finish it in 10 years from the time we start,” he said.

Because it would directly link the industrialized areas to highways, the bridge would reduce shipping costs, Runge said.

It would also lessen traffic congestion without an expensive expansion of the Claude Allouez Bridge or Highway 57 south of downtown De Pere.

Because the bridge and connecting streets would have bike lanes and pedestrian walkways, it would give employers an added reason to remain in or relocate to the area, Runge said.

Runge said the county is seeking federal and state funds to offset the local costs associated with the project.

“We have some requests in to the state for some funding from the state budget at this point, and we have our eyes on some federal grant programs,” Runge said.

Alderman Jonathon Hansen said citizen support is crucial.

“There are some significant funds that lawmakers can work with, so if this is important to you, I recommend that you reach out to your representatives to make this go forward,” Hansen said.

Mayor Mike Walsh echoed Hansen’s plea for people to contact state legislators.

“We’ve been working with them very diligently and need them to get on board,” Walsh said. “We’ve had discussions with our local and valley representatives, and due to the fact that we’re now in a little competition for money with the Highway 41 project that reared its head a year or so ago, we need people and businesses to contact their representatives to get this project off the ground.”

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