Public hearings held for south bridge project
By Lea Kopke
DE PERE – The south bridge connector project, a concept which was first introduced in a 1968 Brown County plan, has moved onto the next stage of development.
The public hearing of the Tier 1 Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the project was held in two parts July 7 and 8.
The first portion was a livestream on YouTube, and the second was an in-person meeting at the Brown County Fairgrounds.
Both offered the opportunity to give public or private testimony.
At both hearings, attendees could ask project members questions and view a presentation about the purpose of the project and findings from the alternatives screening process.
Dave Prust of De Pere attended the in-person meeting and said he has been following talks of the bridge for years.
“My home is probably a block away from where the south bridge could be,” Prust said. “My neighbors that sit in there, they have concerns about noise and traffic. But they knew (about the bridge) going into building their homes. It was going to happen eventually, one way or another.”
Cole Runge, the interim director of Brown County Planning and Land Services, said the public was invited to learn more about the research and give opinions on the project.
“Right now we’re just identifying our preferred alternative,” Runge said. “We want to hear people’s comments on that, and the goal is to incorporate those comments into our study. We’ll have a comment period open until Aug. 3 and then we hope to have a selected alternative by October.”
Charlie Webb, a senior project member at Jacobs, a consulting firm, said the purpose of the project is to address both existing east-west transportation demand and anticipated transportation demand generated by future development.
Webb said the project is needed to address four issues.
“To address congestion in the vicinity of the existing Fox River bridges – namely the Claude Allouez bridge along Highway 32,” he said, “to accommodate existing and planned land use and existing travel demand generated by planned development, to reduce travel time by improving east-west connectivity and to address higher-than-average crash rates and safety issues near the Claude Allouez bridge and (State) Highway 172 bridge.”
According to the Brown County website, a three-step screening process was done by the county, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration.
Throughout this process, Webb said input from the public, tribes, local officials, and regulatory agencies was also considered.
The screening narrowed down 15 alternatives to two alternative routes for the south bridge, which were then retained for a more detailed study.
Corridor Alternative 1 would connect Scheuring Road to Heritage Road.
Corridor Alternative 2 would connect Rockland Road to Red Maple Road and add an Interstate 41 interchange.
After the two alternatives underwent a detailed analysis by Jacobs, Webb said Corridor Alternative 2 was identified as the preferred route.
“Corridor Alternative 2 was identified as the preferred alternative,” Webb said, “because it would provide the best solution for addressing long-term mobility needs and safety concerns while most effectively serving existing and planned development, and balancing impacts to socioeconomic and environmental resources.”
Once the public testimony deadline has passed, Runge said the county hopes to have an alternative selected by October.
At this point, he said development can begin in phases over time, due to high project costs.
“We’ll do what are called Tier 2 studies for each phase before it’s built,” Runge said, “to help us take a closer look at some of those more detailed impacts associated with this property.”