Patti Wenzel

That’s how the interchange crumbles

By - Sep 8th, 2009 10:02 am
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Aerial photo of the Zoo Interchange

Aerial photo of the Zoo Interchange

Thanks, Gov. Doyle. Since you wanted the easy political win this past budget go ’round, the citizens of Kenosha and Racine will get a newly widened and freshly laid I-94, while those of us who live west of Miller Park will be stuck in an endless traffic jam for the next decade!

I admit that I am not happy with the proposed plans for the rebuilding and revamping of the Zoo Interchange, where I-94, I-894 and US 45 meet. New ramps that move vehicles directly off the freeway onto the medical grounds and past State Fair Park will reduce the limited green space in the area. Hundreds of homes will be lost along I-94, and the price tag of $2.5 billion is weighty to a fault. And, personally, as a musician, the loss of Melk Music will be devasting — where will I have my clarinet fixed?

The DOT placed weight limits and detours on the interchange after a recent report stated that many of the ramps heading north and east were unable to sustain heavy truck loads. Now, a trip from Lincoln Avenue to North Avenue takes 20 minutes due to trucks and drivers puzzled by detour signs, as opposed to the five minutes it used to take before the restrictions were in place. And don’t even think about heading west on I-94 with a turnoff to US 45 North. Before, the only impediments were drivers who wanted to jump from the 84th Street onramp to Chicago. Not anymore. Now the wait to merge and travel through the interchange can take up to 15 minutes, not to mention the stress of watching potential accidents posed by drivers who wait until the last minute to merge among the 18-wheelers forced to loop east and west going north.

My inconvenience is only time and small amounts of money, but interstate commerce is being severely hampered by Doyle’s inaction to repair this vital crossroads. He took the easy way out, instead of sitting down with Milwaukee County legislators who have concerns about freeway widening in our area, to expand a freeway stretch that is not crumbling under our wheels.

Now that the Zoo Interchange has been determined to be in dire shape, literally falling down around drivers, where will Doyle and his transporation secretary, Frank Busalacchi find the $19 – $22 million to simply keep the bridges up until reconstruction is ordered?  Was Doyle’s budget decision to widen I-94 while leaving the Zoo Interchange to languish a massive game of chicken?  Will we have to wait until the interchange becomes the next I-35 (the Minneapolis bridge that crumbled into the Mississippi River) for the government to realize the importance of it all? Or, is this just a way to show the keepers of the federal stimulus funds that the Zoo Interchange is a truly shovel-ready project?

I don’t know. I’m just a woman stuck in my little red car in the middle of it all.

Categories: Commentary, Urban Ideas

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