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More delays for the Racine Street Bridge project in Menasha

Racine Street Construction
Posted at 5:44 PM, Jan 19, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-19 18:44:35-05

MENASHA (NBC 26) — The Racine Street Bridge in Menasha was supposed to be open in September, but the Wisconsin Department Of Transportation (WisDOT) announced this week that it probably won’t open until April.

“You can deal with, okay, this is going to be the date, but when the date keeps changing it makes it very difficult to plan,” said Donald Merkes, Mayor of Menasha.

Located just a few feet from the construction is Club Liquor.

“When the road was closed around the corner, from Racine to Main Street and everything was closed it really did affect our business,” said Jon Horan, Club Liquor co-owner.

Since the roundabout opened, things have gone back to normal for them.

“Do I think that if the bridge was open right now, we’d be experiencing higher sales? Yes, I do,” said Horan.

Even though the bridge closure hasn’t hurt Club Liquor too much, it’s made it difficult for residents to travel to Doty Island and Neenah.

“I’ve always been on the island going back and forth, so since this has been down it’s just been traffic jams and it’s not fun,” said Heather Bunnell, a Menasha resident.

Donald Merkes updated residents on the project and voiced the city’s frustration with the delays.

“I think a lot of our frustration has just been the continuing of pushing this date forward, that we really can’t get a good answer from the WisDOT and there always seems to be another problem,” said Mayor Merkes.

We spoke to the WisDOT project manager about what could happen if the bridge wasn’t open by April.

Since opening the bridge by April is important for the navigation system, we asked if it would be possible to open it to boat traffic if it’s not ready for road traffic.

“Correct, that is possible but certainly at this point we’re confident that the bridge will be fully functional prior to the navigation season,” said Bill Bertrand, WisDOT Project Manager.

As for residents and businesses that have been negatively affected by ongoing delays, the frustration is clear.

“We recognize certainly the frustration from local residents and the local officials that there have been delays in the opening. We’re working to ensure that the bridge will function very well in the long term for the city but also, we need to complete the remaining construction in a safe manner,” said Bertrand.

When the bridge will open has been a constant question for residents.

“We’ve been partnering as much as we can, we’ve had meetings with our engineering staff and WisDOT and we offer to help when we can, and we’ll continue doing that,” said Mayor Merkes.

The Wisconsin Department Of Transportation is hopeful to have the project completed in the spring before navigation season begins.

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