DOT Tells City of Wausau It Will Not be Expanding the Thomas Street 2-Lane Bridge

“The department has no plans to add capacity to the structure. Our strategy is to maintain the structure to maximize its service life.”

– Richard Simon, DOT, March 8, 2017

no thomas street bridge expansion

Click to view City of Wausau and DOT emails regarding the bridge

June 20, 2017


It recently came to light that the DOT has no plans to expand the capacity of the Thomas Street bridge, which currently has two lanes.  In fact, the DOT’s strategy, according to emails, is to maximize the bridge’s service life.

The email string suggests the bridge service life will last until 2056.

Even as recently as March 2, less than a week before the DOT communications, the city had anticipated receiving an expanded bridge and was planning accordingly.

A four-lane option — should it remain on the table — from 4th Avenue to the bridge would now be bottlenecked on both sides by 2-lane segments.

On March 6, 2017, a City of Wausau engineer emailed the Wisconsin DOT (emphasis added in both emails):

“This is a major discussion point for our CISM committee on Thursday. I did get word from Tom Hardinger the bridge was re‐decked in 2006 and has a 30‐40 year life expectancy with a possible concrete overlay to extend the bridge to 50 years. My question would be if the DOT has any plans to add capacity prior to this 50 year period?”

A response from the DOT on March 8, 2017 stated:

“This is a follow up to the voice mail I left you. The department has no plans to add capacity to the structure. Our strategy is to maintain the structure to maximize its service life.

Some at City Hall, despite the loss of the expected bridge expansion, are still pushing for a major lane expansion and extensive property acquisitions on the north side of the road between 4th Avenue and the bridge.

Both 4-lane and 2-lane plans to be presented at the June 26, 2017 public information meeting will involve heavy property acquisition on the north side of the road.  Given that the presentation of only these two options did not appear to go through any formal CISM or Economic Development committee process in the recent past, it is unclear who limited the consideration set.

Both residents and council members have expressed concern in the past over the cost to taxpayers and other consequences of the north-side property acquisitions, especially because DOT traffic numbers show the expansion is not necessary.

On July 11, 2014, prior to the major vote which ultimately split the project into two design and construction phases, the Wausau Daily Herald Editorial Board wrote that the larger option is a “bad plan” and stated that the “the city has not yet considered the simplest, cheapest — and according to many residents, best — option of resurfacing but not expanding the road.”