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WisDOT's I-94 study wants 6 to 8 lane expansion in Milwaukee

According to WisDOT, the alternative proposal would improve safety, reduce congestion, and replace aging infrastructure.
I-94 East-West corridor project.png
Posted at 10:05 AM, Nov 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-11 23:29:35-05

MILWAUKEE — The Wisconsin Department of Transportation has announced an alternative proposal for the I-94 East-West corridor project, a project that has been up for debate since 2012.

According to WisDOT, the alternative proposal would improve safety, reduce congestion, and replace aging infrastructure. It would involve reconstructing the Stadium Interchange into an eight-lane freeway with a Diamond Interchange.

The new proposalcomes after WisDOT Secretary designee Craig Thompson said WisDOT would expand its review of the project. That review consisted of studying traffic levels and collecting public input.

“Safety is our agency’s highest priority and doing nothing about this section of I-94 is not an option,” WisDOT Secretary Craig Thompson said. “Listening to people who live in the community is a vital part of creating safe roads. We placed a high priority on public involvement during the I-94 East-West reevaluation which resulted in significant changes to the previous proposal, and we remain committed to working with stakeholders to minimize any impacts to the community.”

The new proposal also includes the following projects:

  • Modernizing the Hawley Road, 35th Street and 25th/27th Street interchanges to provide better and safer access for Milwaukee neighborhoods.
  • Enhancing connections for nearby Milwaukee neighborhoods to other areas of the city, county and state.
  • Improving bicycle and pedestrian accommodations across I-94 and connecting the Hank Aaron State Trail with the Oak Leaf Trail.
  • Increasing safety and efficiency on adjacent east-west roadways by reducing future traffic volumes on local roadways. Local roads can better function for all modes of transportation.

The previous proposal had received some criticism. Back in Feb. of 2021, Milwaukee Alderman Bob Bauman argued that construction isn't needed because drivers aren't out on the road as much as they used to be. He drafted a resolution calling on the federal government to reject the state's request to modernize the interstate.

Friday's announcement about the new plan also proving to be controversial. After WisDOT announced the new plan, Aldermen Michael Murphy and Robert Bauman released a statement saying the proposal is not in the best interest of area residents.

"In short, this $1.2 billion project that would add a fourth lane in each direction on the freeway is unnecessary and unwanted by those most closely residing to the area," the aldermen said in part.

A Coalition for Responsible Transportation agreed with the Aldermen. Gregg May is the transportation policy director for 1000 Friends of Wisconsin, a group that's part of the coalition. He says instead of expanding the freeway to eight lanes, the state should fix the current six lanes and use the rest of the funds to better other forms of transit.

"It would use the money saved from not expanding to turn the stadium freeway into a boulevard, to add walking and biking infrastructure to the surrounding neighborhoods and also support capital financing for bus rapid transit," said May. "It’s unfortunate that making someone’s commute easier is the highest priority for the DOT when there are people losing their transit services."

In contrast, other community organizations like the Hispanic Collaborative are in support of the proposal.

"I think that the modernized 8 lanes really lets us take advantage of the work that’s been done," said Nancy Hernandez, president of the Hispanic Collaborative. "It really addresses not just the needs today, but accommodates future growth of Milwaukee as we think about the needs of our neighborhoods and communities to get around, to get to work, and to do that in a safe way with an infrastructure that’s efficient for them."

WisDOT will hold two public hearings so the community can provide input on the new project proposal.

  • Monday, December 12, 2022, from 3 to 7 p.m.
    • Wisconsin State Fair Park, Tommy Thompson Youth Center, Gate #5
      640 S. 84th Street, Milwaukee
  • Wednesday, December 14, 2022, from 4 to 7 p.m.
    • Marquette University High School (enter from Michigan Street parking lot)
      3401 W. Wisconsin Avenue, Milwaukee

WisDOT had previously said they expect this $1 billion project to be approved in late 2022. Now, WisDOT said depending on final approvals and funding, construction is expected to begin in 2025.

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