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Home arrow Working with Section 106 arrow Section 106 in Action arrow Archive of Prominent Section 106 Cases arrow Wisconsin: Replacement of Sturgeon Bay Bridge
Wisconsin: Replacement of Sturgeon Bay Bridge

Agency: Federal Highway Administration

Criteria for ACHP Involvement:

  • This project may result in demolition of the Sturgeon Bay Bridge, which is an example of a rare bridge type (Criterion 1).

  • There has been widespread public interest and controversy over the consideration of alternatives (Criterion 3).

Recent Developments

In August 2001, the City of Sturgeon Bay hosted a meeting concerning replacement of the Sturgeon Bay Bridge, with participants representing ACHP, Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), Corps of Engineers, Wisconsin State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT), National Trust for Historic Preservation, local citizens groups, and members of the Sturgeon Bay community. Congressman Mark Green, State Representative Gary Bies, and staffers of Senators Russell Feingold and Herb Kohl were also in attendance.

Sturgeon Bay Bridge, Wisconsin



Sturgeon Bay Bridge, Wisconsin
(staff photo)



Rehabilitation of the bridge coupled with construction of a new parallel span was discussed, but WisDOT indicated that it could not continue maintenance and ownership of two structures. Because the historic bridge is not on the State highway system, WisDOT stated that its authority is normally limited to funding operations and maintenance. However, in response to local concerns raised about this bridge, WisDOT is willing to modify this policy to also include funding rehabilitation of the existing bridge or replacement with a two or four lane bridge.

If the historic bridge was retained and a parallel structure built, however, WisDOT indicated the city would have to assume responsibility for operations and maintenance of one of the structures. In turn, the city stated that it cannot assume responsibility for any bridge and is considering requesting congressional support to help fund the project.

At this time, WisDOT has $24 million earmarked for this project, enough for construction of a two-lane replacement span, and has not confirmed other funding sources, including whether Federal funds will indeed ultimately be sought. Participants in the August meeting also discussed the need for the project to meet Coast Guard permitting requirements for the horizontal clearance for ships. These requirements would vary depending on the number of crossings and where they are located.

Because it is now evident that there is a recognized potential for rehabilitation of the bridge, ACHP has requested the 1997 Programmatic Agreement (PA) for Wisconsin bascule bridges be amended to exclude the Sturgeon Bay Bridge from the PA’s demolition list and provide for continued Section 106 consultation. ACHP is working with FWHA, the Wisconsin SHPO, and WisDOT to draft the amendment.


In 1996, WisDOT conducted a comprehensive survey of all movable bridges in the State and prepared a historic preservation plan (HPP) to address proposed work on bascule bridges. A PA was then developed to address Section 106 compliance for a half-dozen projects involving treatment of bascule bridges in accordance with the HPP.

One of the six bridges addressed in the PA is the Sturgeon Bay Bridge, which crosses over the Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal in the city of Sturgeon Bay. Built in 1931, the bridge is a rare example of a Scherzer-type, rolling-lift bascule bridge and is the only example of its type in the State. While the Sturgeon Bay Bridge received the highest ranking in the statewide survey for historic significance and public appreciation, it also received the lowest rankings for current condition, function, and preservation opportunity, and was not considered a candidate for rehabilitation.

Replacement of the existing two-lane bridge with a new structure was proposed due to an increasing number of closings of the structure for recurring maintenance and the need to increase vehicular capacity.

Shortly after the PA was signed, a local citizens group challenged the condition assessment of the bridge, leading ACHP and other parties to request WisDOT to reevaluate the potential for rehabilitation. More recent studies conducted by WisDOT and independent consultants all recognize the potential for rehabilitation of the bridge. WisDOT is now considering a number of alternatives, including rehabilitation of the historic bridge with the construction of a new parallel two-lane crossing. Fifteen alternatives will be presented in an Environmental Assessment scheduled for distribution in September 2001. At this time, a preferred alternative has not been identified.

Policy Highlights

This project highlights the importance of early initiation of Section 106 review, as well as public participation throughout the process. This project also raises questions about WisDOT’s policy for bridges that are not on the State trunk highway system. That policy appears to constrain rehabilitation of the historic bridge coupled with construction of a parallel span. However, WisDOT has already applied the policy flexibly to the extent that it is willing to fund construction of and maintain ownership of a new four-lane bridge, which begs the question why dual spans cannot be treated similarly.

Staff contact: Karen Theimer Brown

Updated June 6, 2002

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