MILWAUKEE — Officials in Milwaukee County announced Wednesday a new study that they hope will find ways to improve the stretch of WIS 175 from West Wisconsin Avenue to Lisbon Avenue, known as the "Stadium Freeway."
Leaders want to improve the roadway not only to make it easier to commute through that area but also make it beneficial to the communities that reside there - including people who have not benefited from extensive freeway construction in the past.
When the Stadium Freeway was built in the 1960s, it divided neighborhoods like Washington Heights and Washington Park and required the demolition of blocks of homes. Many have argued that extensive freeway construction led to redlining and segregation in Milwaukee.
Wisconsin Department of Transportation Secretary Craig Thompson, Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson and Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley spoke at the news conference. You can watch what they had to say at the top of this article.
Officials said the study they announced will recommend solutions to address concerns around safety and accessibility for pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists in the surrounding area.
They hope to be in touch with residents to get their input on what they would like to see.
“I think there are people that certainly would love to see new development in the area. New businesses, new housing,” said Eileen Seeger of the Washington Heights Neighborhood Association.
The stadium freeway is all Kevin Wisniewski has known. He has lived in Washington Heights for more than 25 years.
“I just don’t think it’s a needed thing,” he said. “We really like the convenience of the freeway, and I think the traffic is going to be a jam-up in the morning.”
Traffic was commonly mentioned as a concern on the west side and gentrification on the east. Pedestrian safety, bike safety and accessibility were also top of mind for people.
“This highway leads to the south side and also back to the north side, so I don’t see a reason for tearing it down,” said Washington Park resident Andre Robertson.
If the highway is converted into a boulevard, Robertson sees an opportunity to invest in community resources.
“I don’t care what they do, just build something for the kids, because we need something to do,” he said.
WisDOT leaders promise a robust community input strategy as part of this $2-$3 million study
It’s something everyone agrees on as the study gets underway.
“Mainly, just consider everybody’s voices,” said one Washington Park resident who wanted to remain anonymous. "Don’t just consider one voice because they are a homeowner and the others not. Consider everybody.”
WisDOT says it plans to complete the feasibility study in the next year in a half.