MILWAUKEE — A Milwaukee Common Council committee on Monday unanimously approved a resolution members hope will stop the state's plan to revamp one of the most heavily traveled freeways in the city.
The state wants to spend $1 billion to revamp I-94 between 16th and 70th streets in Milwaukee. But Alderman Bob Bauman thinks that's a bad idea.
"Basically, it's a transparency issue in my mind," said Bauman during a Milwaukee Judiciary and Legislation committee meeting.
Bauman says the 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. In his resolution opposing the project, Bauman cited statistics from the U.S. Department of Transportation that show American households made fewer commuting trips in 2017 than at any time since 1990. Bauman says the money earmarked for the project can be better used someplace else.
"That sum of money could go a long way to repairing the local streets in Milwaukee, to repairing bridges," said Bauman.
But officials with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation say the stretch of I-94 between 16th and 70th street has a crash rate of "two-and-a-half times" higher than similar state highways. They say construction needs to happen sooner rather than later.
"Thousands of workers commute on a daily basis and part of the commitment we have is to make sure that we maintain our infrastructure. The numbers that we are seeing are still high enough to warrant the full reconstruction and the modernization of the structured freeway," said Regional Communication Manager, Michael Pyritz.
Some drivers say they support the interstate's expansion.
"It would help a lot. I think it would help dramatically, it would be a great improvement for the city," said Dan Ielczak.
But others said they'd rather see the money invested elsewhere.
"I have a feeling that there are other areas that could use the money right now, like potholes for instance. Maybe we should be spending some of the money on that infrastructure instead of the freeways again," said Adam Lovejoy.
Monday's unanimous approval advanced the resolution out of committee, it will now go to the full council on Feb 9 for approval.