Construction begins on bridge connecting valley to The Domes

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Mitchell Park and Menomonee Valley will be connected by more than just proximity soon.  A bridge linking the Clarke Square neighborhood and the Mitchell Park Domes to the Hank Aaron State Trail in the valley is under construction.

The first section of the 270-foot pedestrian bridge was lifted into place recently. It will be accessible to the public by the summer of 2013, according to Laura Bray, executive director of Menomonee Valley Partners, Inc.

The new bridge is the latest project in an extensive effort to reconnect the surrounding neighborhoods to economic and environmental resources in the valley.

The  $26 million, “From the Ground Up” initiative includes building the Urban Ecology Center Valley Branch, 3700 W. Pierce St.; the Valley Passage walkway, a pedestrian bridge connecting the Silver City neighborhood to the valley; and the creation of a 24-acre park along the Hank Aaron State Trail. In 2013, the 33rd Court Bridge will connect the area behind Palermo’s Pizza, 3301 W. Canal St., to the new park. The initiative is coordinated by Menomonee Valley Partners and Urban Ecology Center, in partnership with the State of Wisconsin.

Bray says that with all the revitalization work going on in Clarke Square and in the valley, it’s important to make a connection between the two.

“We want residents in Clarke Square to have better access to jobs in the valley, where they’ll be able to walk to work each day.”

Because Milwaukee was built using a traditional street grid system, the Menomonee Valley, which sits lower than the surrounding neighborhoods, has been hard to reach, according to Bray.

“We needed to create ways for people to easily get in and out of the neighborhood,” Bray said.

The bike and pedestrian bridge will sit to the east of the 27th Street viaduct. It will run over a succession of train tracks and connect to an area of Mitchell Park just north of The Domes.

Designing the bridge in an area that is both industrial and natural presented unique challenges, according to Bill Zippell, project manager at Alfred Benesch & Company, which designed the bridge.

“We couldn’t disturb the seven train tracks running underneath the bridge and also had to create the least impact on the natural environment at the park,” Zippell said.

Zippell, who grew up in Mequon and brings his kids to The Domes each year, can’t wait to see the finished product.

Jessica Binder witnessed the first section of the bridge lifted into place with her husband and son Everett.

Binder is the project director for the Milwaukee office of the Bike Federation of Wisconsin, 3618 W. Pierce St. The federation, which opened the office in Silver City recently, works to promote bicycling.

Binder said she rides the Hank Aaron State Trail through the valley by bike each day, but she’s more excited about the possibilities for children in the surrounding neighborhoods.

“This bridge will make it that much easier for kids to get here and explore the trail by bike,” Binder said.

Once the bridge connects the Hank Aaron State Trail to the domes, 15 of the top 25 southeastern Wisconsin tourist attractions will be linked to each other, according to Bray.

“You can go from the lake, to Discovery World, to the Third Ward, to Potawatomi, to the Domes and to Miller Park.”

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