Crossing the causeway

Cars take the trip over Lake Monona
Crossing the causeway

Railroads have been crossing the Monona straits since 1854. Starting in 1967, cars could, too.

They should have been able to do so years before, but the causeway got caught up in the politics of Monona Terrace. Supporters of the project–especially the Capital Times–opposed the road because it would make possible the competing proposal for a facility at Olin Park. The paper was so zealous in attacking the causeway that Mayor Ivan Nestingen, who as an Assemblyman in 1955 had pushed through the legislation to let the city build the road, dropped the idea entirely when he became mayor in 1956, lest he anger editor and Frank Lloyd Wright acolyte William T. Evjue.

But when Nestingen resigned to become undersecretary of Health, Education and Welfare in 1961, and Monona Terrace foe Henry Reynolds was elected mayor, the causeway’s cause was ascendant again. Reynolds got the road approved by the Public Service Commission, campaigned for a bond issue to fund it, and had construction well under way before he left office in April, 1965.

Planned as a million-dollar project to be done by 1966, the causeway cost the city twice as much and took a year longer. Part of the delay wasn’t the city’s fault; construction should have finished in time for the World Food Expo at the recently opened Coliseum in September, but that schedule was overwhelmed by the two-month building trades strike earlier this year.

Mayor Otto Festge cut the ceremonial ribbon and rode shotgun in the lead car to open the drive on November 22. Reynolds was invited but did not attend the ceremony.

The new road was expected to save motorists coming to the central city in from the south five to ten minutes, and take 10,000 cars a day off South Park Street and Olin Avenue. It would also give everyone access to a stunning sight up to now seen by only a select few–the water approach to downtown Madison.

Return to 15 web extras about the summer of 1967 here.