Milwaukee’s “KK Can Opener” needs no introduction, but here’s one anyway: You know that railroad bridge on South Kinnickinnic Avenue, the one near the border of Walker’s Point and Bay View, and the one that always seems to have a semi stuck underneath it? Yeah, that one. (Well, there are two of them, but we’ll get to that in a bit.)
In case you need a refresher, here’s a delightful TMJ4 report from 2018:
The TMJ4 report is mainly about the northernmost bridge near KK and Maple, while the above picture is of the nearby southernmost bridge near KK and Becher. But they function the same way: they each have relatively low clearances at 12 feet and 9 inches, and they each tend to gobble up trucks that, legally, can be as tall as 13 feet and 6 inches. There’s even a KK Can Opener Facebook page, which presents the bridge(s) as a sentient being gleefully devouring unsuspecting tucks. “Someone asked me ‘which bridge’ I was,” reads a recent post. “I am more than just a bridge, I have a north jaw and a south jaw, which manifest as train bridges but I am also the land, I am also the river, I exist here, I feed here.”
But those feedings may be severely hampered in the near future. According to Urban Milwaukee, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation is kicking in a sweet $1.73 million to help with the construction of Komatsu Mining’s nearby South Harbor Campus project. And a good chunk of that will go lowering the section of KK below the bridge:
The $1.46 million road project will lower S. Kinnickinnic Ave. as it goes under a Canadian Pacific railroad bridge near E. Stewart St. at the north end of Bay View.
That project, which will give trucks access to the south end of the site from Interstate 94’s Becher Street off-ramp, is expected to take place in summer 2022. Road closures are expected, with traffic diverted to S. 1st. St.
Both bridges are owned by Canadian Pacific, which explains the inaction on the whole “Why doesn’t the city just jack up the bridges?” question.
And yes, the KK Can Opener itself has weighed in on its slimmed-down future. “So it looks like Komatsu and the DOT is gonna put me on a diet,” reads a recent post. “Hopefully I’ll get a few more big meals. And I’ll always be here, I’ve welcomed visitors to Bay View, and residents home for more than 100 years. I’m not going anywhere…just not going to eat as much. Thanks to everyone who is concerned about me.”
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