News of the state legislature’s approval of funding for the Kaukauna bridge repairs has officials from the Fox River Navigational System Authority (FRNSA) planning for the future of the system.
“We are thrilled lawmakers approved funding for the lift bridge as it will open access to a beautiful section of the Fox River through the lock system, “ said Tim Rose, FRNSA board chairman. “This stretch of the river would be accessible to all citizens of the region to use for recreation and provide access to five of the 17 locks on the system.”
Funding for the bridge repair was initially included in the Wisconsin state budget, but the Governor’s veto sent local and state-level officials back to the drawing board. By working with the administration, city officials and representatives from FRNSA, funding was made available via a newly formed $75 million Multimodal Local Supplement grant program.
“Opening access to the Kaukauna locks will provide all citizens access to a historic and recreational treasure,” said Jeremy Cords, CEO of FRNSA. “We are looking forward to working collaboratively with the city, state, and regional representatives to get the bridge in working order to open the waterways for all.”
Although the Veterans Memorial Bridge in Kaukauna carries vehicle traffic, it needs extensive repairs to function again as a lift bridge to provide river access to motorized and non-motorized boats.
The lock system on the Fox River is one of the only fully restored, hand-operated lock systems in the nation. From 2005-2015 the Fox River Navigational System Authority (FRNSA) restored 16 of the 17 locks on the system at an investment of $14.5 million.
A 2017 economic impact study conducted by the University of Wisconsin—Oshkosh indicated the lock system could generate as much as $290 million in total economic output over a ten year period and generate as many as 6,300 additional jobs. The study further indicates a fully operational lock system could generate $99 million in additional business investment over the same time period.
“Opening the Kaukauna locks for navigation will also open the potential for responsible development of the riverfront,” Cords said.
The Fox Locks operate through September 15, and then will reopen in May of 2020 for the summer season. In 2019, traffic through the system is estimated at more than 15,000 passengers. In 2018, more than 18,000 passengers went through the lock system, despite the closure of the Menasha lock—one of the busiest locks on the system.
For more information on the lock system, please visit www.foxlocks.org.