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DOT Finds Flag Not So Grand

Friday, May 29, 2015

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GREEN BAY, WI—Patriotic or problematic?

Big flags dangling over busy bridges are definitely the latter—even American flags meant to honor Memorial Day, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation has said.

The agency has been defending its decision to remove a large American flag installed sometime before dawn May 22 over the Leo Frigo Bridge in Green Bay.

LeoFrigoFlag LeoFrigoFlag
WBAY Facebook // Shanna Pfeiffer-Hughett (left); Jodi Marie (right)

The 30-foot flag was hung nearly 50 feet above the bridge until WisDOT learned of it and took it down. Agency rules prohibit civic displays over expressways and freeways.

The 30-foot flag was wired to the top of the steel arch 50 feet over the bridge when the morning commute began. DOT has no idea how the person even hung the flag but says it had to come down. The agency removed the flag about 7:45 a.m., as soon as it was alerted to it.

“It was moving quite a bit up there. If a 30-foot flag fell down on a car going across a bridge, what the ramifications would be to the driver in that car,” Mark Kantola, WisDOT Project Communication Manager, told Fox News.

Kantola also noted that DOT has a policy against "civic displays over expressways or freeways."

“What he did broke the law, that’s the bottom line," Kantola told WBAY.com. "If he or she gets caught, they are going to possibly be charged, fined or jailed.”

WisDOT doesn't need more hazards on the bridge right now. The four-lane span over the Fox River was the same one that suddenly dropped nearly two feet in 2013, forcing an emergency closure that lasted nearly six months.

A just-completed report on the failure laid the cause to severe corrosion of one of the supporting piers.

Critics Weigh In

The flag issue lit up social media, with WisDOT finding no shortage of critics and defenders for its action.

Fox Facebook friends Mike and Michele represented the two sides of the debate.

LeoFrigoSlump
WisDOT / Facebook

A four-lane section of the Leo Frigo bridge sank in 2013, forcing closure of the span for several months. The cause of the failure was corrosion of a supporting pier.

Wrote Michele: “Why remove the flag? Possibly because someone would be offended? If it wasn’t secure, then secure it and leave it there. If it offends you, find another route or better yet another country whose flag doesn’t offend you.”

Countered Mike: “We all have a sense of pride, but come on, that was a dangerous and stupid stunt, and the flag should always be displayed properly. It was the right thing to do to take it down. We shouldn’t need a flag on a bridge to remind us what this weekend means.”

Catching the Hanger

Although WisDOT traffic camera video from atop the bridge shows the flag, it did not capture the flag hanger, said Mark Kantola, WisDOT Project Communication Manager.

“The person that put the flag up must have done it at night,” Kantola told the Green Bay Press-Gazette. “At night it’s really hard to see when you get up that high even though there’s lights, but we are reviewing the video.”

   

Tagged categories: Bridges; Department of Transportation (DOT); North America; Program/Project Management; Roads/Highways

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