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'Ka-clunk': Newly opened Racine Street Bridge raises concerns for some in downtown Menasha

Racine Street Bridge in Menasha view from below
Posted at 8:48 PM, Jun 21, 2023
and last updated 2023-06-21 21:48:22-04

MENASHA (NBC 26) — The highly anticipated Racine Street Bridge reopened to the public on April 19 after two years of construction.

Now, some who live nearby are raising concerns about the noises they hear when heavy vehicles drive over the bridge.

City of Menasha Director of Engineering and Public Works Laura Jungwirth said she first started hearing from community members about their concerns about a month ago.

“We have been having them reach out to us over the phone, [a] few emails, and they have attended our common council meetings and spoken public comment regarding the bridge noise concerns,” said Junwirth.

“They're saying it sounds like a 'ka-clunk,' I guess you could say when the traffic goes over the lift bridge portion. It does make a vibration sound through the bridge deck," Jungwirth said.

Because the bridge is a Wisconsin Department of Transportation contract, the city reached out to WisDOT to assess the situation.

WisDOT Project Executive Tammy Rabe said they are looking into what can be done to help mitigate the sounds, but complete silence is an unrealistic expectation.

"Bridges make sounds. So, not all sounds are bad, and we are working to make some adjustments to the bridge and the way the bascule part closes and locks, which may reduce the noise, but there are going to be noises out there as part of the normal operations of the structure,” Rabe said.

She also pointed out that the two years spanning the gap between the bridge being open may have led people to forget what it used to sound like.

“Similar to the fact that there was no lighting out there for those for a long period while it was under construction. And when the lights went back up, it surprised people how light it was. I think those are things that people are just going to have to get used to,” said Rabe.

But WisDOT is doing what it can to help ease the noise for the locals. They're making adjustments to the way the lift bridge closes and latches.

Most importantly, Rabe said that the noises do not indicate a safety issue.

“We don't think there's anything to be alarmed about; the bridge is safe. If it weren't safe, we wouldn't be having traffic out there. And we wouldn't be operating it if it weren't safe for the public,” Rabe said.