Why the Hoan Used to Be Called the Bridge to Nowhere

Did you know that the Hoan Bridge had this nickname?


Some in the city had long desired a high-rise bridge along the lakefront and, with the Federal Highway Act of 1956, it seemed as though it might finally happen.

The federal government would pick up the bulk of the tab for the project if it could be incorporated into the rapidly developing Interstate highway system. The 1960s vision of Milwaukee’s future saw a network of Interstates encircling Downtown and a big bridge over the harbor entrance connecting to the southern suburbs.

Photo courtesy of the Milwaukee County Historical Society



But a decades-long battle ensued between bridge-backers, the feds (who didn’t consider Bay View a destination worthy of its own Interstate) and the growing number of city residents who opposed the “ring of concrete” freeways that would feed the new bridge.

Meanwhile, work on what was already dubbed the Daniel Hoan Memorial Bridge was already underway. It was nearing completion in 1973 when anti-Interstate forces shut down the greater Downtown loop project, leaving the bridge with nothing at either end to connect with.

Locals began to refer to it as the “Bridge to Nowhere” and it lingered for years without any indication it would ever be used. Finally, in 1977, thanks to $22 million from the feds to complete the project, it was opened to traffic. A civic project lit the bridge with LEDs last year.

This story is part of Milwaukee Magazine‘s January issue.

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