One thing that hasn't been brought up in the debate over what style of bridge should be built to replace the one connecting Jackson and Oregon Streets is why we still need drawbridges on the Fox River in downtown Oshkosh anyway?
The original bridges spanning the Fox in our city needed to accommodate steamships that brought supplies to and products from the riverside lumber mills and woodworking plants. Steam passenger ships still plied the Lake Winnebago system. Those were larger crafts with huge steam and smokestacks. But when was the last time anything like that passed through Oshkosh on the Fox? Maybe the last time the dinner cruise ship was in business?
Today, we keep drawbridges for the very small number of pleasure boats needing higher clearance for the limited number of times they traverse the Fox River. And sometimes, you can question the need to raise the deck for even some of those. How many times have you been stuck behind the gates needing to get somewhere on a summer weekend afternoon and wondered "They had to raise the bridge for that boat?"
In cities like Milwaukee and Green Bay, where commercial traffic still uses the rivers, drawbridges should remain in use. That's also why they have huge high-rise bridges like the Leo Frigo and the Hoan to accommodate large cargo carriers. But perhaps it's time to ask why we are taking on extra costs and overbuilding infrastructure in places like Oshkosh and Menasha to accommodate a couple hundred boats at most?
The 21st century may be a good time to decide that our bridges are going to be a standard height, and that boat owners and manufacturers will have to adapt to that--not the other way around. Current laws still adhere to the 19th century premise that shipping should take priority over driving--creating situations where the vast majority defer to the very few. There is precedence for this. The locks of the Panama Canal and the Soo are a certain size--so all international cargo ships, tankers and even aircraft carriers are built to fit into them. Let pleasure boat makers and buyers know that our bridges are going to be just 16-feet tall--and they can make plenty of luxurious watercraft to fit under them.