Hoan Bridge

Coordinates: 43°01′30″N 87°53′56″W / 43.02500°N 87.89889°W / 43.02500; -87.89889
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Hoan Bridge
The Hoan Bridge
Coordinates43°01′30″N 87°53′56″W / 43.02500°N 87.89889°W / 43.02500; -87.89889
Carries6 lanes of I-794
CrossesMilwaukee River
LocaleMilwaukee, Wisconsin, U.S.
Official nameDaniel Hoan Memorial Bridge
Maintained byWisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT)
DesignTied arch bridge
Total length3,057.8 m (1.9 mi)[1]
Width15.8 m (51.8 ft)[2]
Longest span185 m (607.0 ft)
Clearance below36.6 m (120.1 ft)[2]
Construction start1970
Daily traffic19230[2]

The Daniel Hoan Memorial Bridge is a tied-arch bridge that connects Interstate 794 in downtown Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to the Lake Freeway across the Milwaukee River inlet. Originally called the Harbor Bridge, it was renamed after Daniel Hoan (Socialist Party), one of the longest serving mayors of Milwaukee.


It was designed by the firm Howard, Needles, Tammen & Bergendoff and in 1975 won the American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC) Long Span Bridge Award. Although construction on the bridge lasted briefly from 1970 until 1972, it did not open to traffic until 1977 due to the era's freeway revolts against the planned Milwaukee County freeway system. This halted completion of the connecting roadways and led to the Hoan Bridge being known as "The Bridge to Nowhere."

It was widely held that the bridge in its unfinished state was used as the site of a car chase scene in the movie The Blues Brothers, author Mathiew J. Prigge in a two part article on the bridges history for the Shepherd Express, pointed out that the film was actually shot two years after the bridge was opened in 1977, he identified the scenes as being filmed on another incomplete section of I-794.[3] Eventually, the bridge connections were completed in 1998, when the Lake Parkway (Wisconsin Highway 794) opened between the bridge's southernmost exit, connecting the bridge between the Bay View neighborhood and downtown Milwaukee's southeastern tip.

Closure and reconstruction[edit]

Hoan Bridge in August, 2001

The Hoan Bridge was temporarily closed on December 13, 2000, after two of the three support beams of the lakefront span failed, causing the north-bound lanes to buckle and sag by 4 feet leaving the span in a near collapsed state. No motorists were injured when the bridge failed. On December 28, 2000, engineers used explosives to remove the damaged section. The southbound lanes were restricted to one lane in each direction for eight months while the damaged northbound span was reconstructed, and the remainder of the bridge underwent extensive rehabilitation and retrofitting. Two lanes in each direction were reintroduced on October 10, 2001, and the bridge was fully reopened the following month.[4] According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, at the time of its failure, the six lanes of the bridge had carried an average of only 36,590 cars per day.[5] A total of $16 million was spent to demolish and replace the damaged section and retrofit the remainder of the bridge.[6] Experts believe that improperly designed welds between the lower lateral bracing and floorbeams along with a period of extreme cold and snow led to the partial collapse of the Hoan Bridge.[7][8]


A total rehabilitation of the bridge has been nearly completed (as of September 2016) in conjunction with related construction on I-794 and its interchange.[9] The rehabilitation plan removed and replaced the bridge deck, other structural adjustments, and the cleaning and repainting of the bridge's steel. The improvements are expected to extend the life span of the bridge by 40 to 50 years.[10]

Light The Hoan Bridge[edit]

In May 2018, a private campaign named "Light the Hoan bridge[11]" was created to light up the bridge. The project will cost between $4 million and $5 million.

As of January 30, 2020, founders of this group stated they were still on track to reach their goal of being lit by the time Milwaukee hosts the Democratic National Convention later that summer. The next fundraising milestone is set for mid-April.[12]

After 2 years of fundraising the bridge was finally lit on October 22, 2020. The bridge will be lit every night thereafter, featuring various colors and light sequences.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Daniel Webster Hoan Bridge". Lichtenstein Consulting Engineers. Archived from the original on March 11, 2007. Retrieved August 11, 2008.
  2. ^ a b c "Nationalbridges.com National Bridge Inventory Bridges". NationalBridges.com. Retrieved October 5, 2007.[dead link]
  3. ^ Prigge, Michael J. (September 12, 2016). "Bridge to Nowhere! A Brief History of the Hoan Bridge Part II". Shepherd Express. Retrieved October 17, 2019.
  4. ^ Tom Held (October 10, 2001), Drivers' patience pays off as most lanes reopen on Hoan Bridge, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, archived from the original on February 12, 2008, retrieved October 12, 2008
  5. ^ Larry Sandler (May 28, 2001), A bridge too far? Drivers avoid the Hoan, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, archived from the original on February 12, 2008, retrieved March 22, 2008
  6. ^ Larry Sandler (August 2, 2007), Hoan Bridge failure was wake-up call here, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, archived from the original on September 29, 2007, retrieved March 22, 2008
  7. ^ Hoan Bridge Failure Investigation and Retrofit; A Summary, Lichtenstein Consulting Engineers, archived from the original on March 11, 2003, retrieved August 11, 2008
  8. ^ "Hoan Bridge Forensic Investigation Failure Analysis: Final Report" (PDF). University at Buffalo. State of Wisconsin Department of Transportation. Retrieved June 27, 2021.
  9. ^ "I-794 Lakefront Gateway – 511 WI Projects". Projects.511wi.gov. Archived from the original on October 2, 2016. Retrieved September 27, 2016.
  10. ^ "Hoan Bridge Project –". Projects.511wi.gov. Retrieved September 27, 2016.
  11. ^ "WATCH: Light the Hoan and watch Milwaukee shine". OnMilwaukee.com. Retrieved October 2, 2018.
  12. ^ "LIGHT THE HOAN REACHES ANOTHER KEY FUNDRAISING MILESTONE". February 4, 2020. Retrieved March 15, 2020.

External links[edit]