Balanced Coverage: Veteran bridge sign debate

TOWN OF LENA – A bridge honoring a local fallen veteran is causing debate in Oconto County.

Army Specialist Nichole Frye was killed in Iraq ten years ago.

Two years later a bridge on Highway 141 just north of Lena was dedicated.

Frye’s name does not appear on the bridge itself. An effort to change that is underway. But the Department of Transportation has already said no.

A drive across the SPC Nichole M. Frye Memorial Bridge may seem routine. But Frye’s family says it should mean more.

“They named the bridge, but there’s nothing on the bridge to know about her sacrifice,” said Lisa Frye, Nichole Frye’s mother.

“Everybody goes past, they see a silver sign, and they don’t know what it’s for. They’re not really looking at it. You can’t read it from that far away and at that speed,” said Jayme Frye, Nichole Frye’s father.

The Rolling Thunder motorcycle club started the push. The group has an honor ride each year.

It says the sign north of the bridge should not be the only marker. Frye’s family agrees.

“Something on that bridge, where it says Kelly Brook, that says Nichole Frye Memorial Bridge, that would be the ultimate,” said Jayme Frye.

But the Department of Transportation says federal guidelines classify the sign as non-essential.

“When you have a policy, you need to adhere to the policy the best you can,” said WisDOT spokesperson Kim Rudat.

Rudat says there are safety concerns as well.

“There’s a tremendous number of messages on the highways now for drivers.”

State Representative Jeff Mursau of Crivitz has introduced a bill to have the sign installed.

“It was supposed to be on the road, or on the bridge, and for people to notice, that’s where it should be,” said State Rep. Jeff Mursau, R-Crivitz.

The DOT says it recognizes the sensitivity of the situation.

“We can certainly understand and sympathize with people that are supporting the effort, and would like to see the sign up on the bridge,” said Rudat.

The Frye family says Nichole would be honored.

“We all know that bridge is hers, and we want everyone else to know,” said Lisa Frye.

“She’d love it, she’d just love it. If the name is on there, smiling from ear to ear,” said Jayme Frye.

The motorcycle club offered to pay for the signs. The DOT says the cost could reach $3,000.

Lawmakers hope to have a new signs in place on the bridge by fall.

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