Land dispute puts bridge project on hold

Construction on the Winneconne Bridge has been push back because of a lawsuit. (WLUK/Courtney Ryan)

WINNECONNE (WLUK) -- The Winneconne bridge is aging and the state says it needs to be replaced.

However, construction is on hold, because of a lawsuit between a landowner and the DOT.

Without the bridge, drivers would have to take a lengthy detour to get from one side, to the other.

The landowner says, the current plans, puts his family's livelihood at stake.

"Winneconne is a small community, 2,400 people, but we're also the lifeline for pretty much anything west," said Village Administrator Mitch Foster.

The bridge is 70-years-old, and plans to replace it have been in the works for eight years. Construction was set to start this month.

"The new location for the bridge is just south of the existing bridge which required the relocation or demolition of buildings," Foster explained.

However, a pending lawsuit between the DOT and Radtke Contractors, which sits on the property the bridge is supposed to be built on, is holding up the project.

The DOT acquired the Radtke property in February.

Tom Radtke says, as part of the agreement, the DOT needed to find him a comparable site.

"They've offered us properties, but they're not a comparable property," said Radtke.

Radtke explained his company needs the waterfront to survive, because of the dredging and other water related work his business does.

"I have to protect my business, I have to protect my family, I have to protect my employees. I have no other choice," Radtke said.

The village said if bridge repairs or maintenance becomes too cost prohibitive for the DOT, the center span of the bridge would remain in the up position, closing the bridge to traffic. Foster explained that would make the drive to the other side of town 40 minutes.

"Omro is the closest bridge, it’s only about seven miles down, but then you have to take 21 through Oshkosh, and back up and around on 116 after 45, it’s a hassle," explained Foster.

Foster added if the bridge were to close, the village's biggest concern is safety.

“On one side of the bridge you have EMS and the school district, on the other side you have police and fire that is not good for us. That is unsafe for one and just a hazard and unfair for the other half of the community," said Foster.

Radtke explained if he could move his business to the property next door to his, the lawsuit could go away.

"Just move me over, just give the zoning, and let's go on with life," said Radtke.

Radtke and the DOT will be back in court next month.

The village says it hopes the lawsuit is settled by July, so construction on the bridge could start in September.

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