County Board Votes for More Cost-Effective I-94 Plan as Legislature Wrestles with Highway Spending Cuts
Instead of $850 million highway expansion, County Board supports cost-effective repair of I-94, better transit
MILWAUKEE — With state budget negotiations continuing to stall over spending on major highway projects, the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors has passed a resolution in opposition to the proposed $850 million expansion of I-94 between 16th and 70th streets. The resolution instead calls for a more cost-effective “Rehab and Transit” option that could cost as little as half as much as Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s expansion proposal.
The “Rehab and Transit” option would repair the highway without adding lanes, while also creating a modern rapid transit network in the Milwaukee region to better connect residents to jobs, services and commerce. The concept plan was developed and championed by the Coalition for More Responsible Transportation (CMRT), a coalition of 25 statewide and local organizations, with 25-year veteran transportation planner and former NJDOT official Mark Stout.
“The Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors sent a clear message to legislators in Madison with the passage of this resolution,” said Supervisor John F. Weishan, Jr. (16th District). “Freeway expansion is not free — it diminishes the livability of our neighborhoods, and diverts money away from local roads and transit that our community needs. We will not compromise the health and financial wellbeing of our communities for this unneeded expansion.”
WisDOT is proposing to unnecessarily add lanes to 3.5 miles of I-94 between the Zoo and Marquette Interchanges in Milwaukee, at an expected cost of $850 million. The Department has not seriously considered an alternative that would repair I-94 without adding lanes, or the creation of a transit route. As a result, the current project plan fails to address fundamental needs in communities across Milwaukee County, including a failure to connect more of the region’s workers to jobs and services or to maintain full access to businesses along the Interstate. This costly project would also divert resources away from much-needed local infrastructure improvements — like pothole repairs and public transportation.
WisDOT has projected strong increases in traffic along I-94 to justify this highway expansion, but recent traffic trends make these projections unlikely to materialize. Only weeks ago, a Federal Court ruled that Wisconsin would receive no federal funding to expand Highway 23 between Fond du Lac and Plymouth because WisDOT had used inaccurate traffic projections to justify that $146 million expansion.
The committee resolution passed with a margin of 13 to 5 on June 25.
The resolution can be found at https://milwaukeecounty.legistar.com/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=397084&GUID=9DA26451-A995-4134-B862-352377A95D25&Options=info|&Search= (Item 52).
CMRT’s full “Rehab and Transit” proposal for I-94 can be found online at http://wispirg.org/reports/wip/rehab-transit-option.
The Coalition for More Responsible Transportation (CMRT) is composed of faith-based, public interest, social justice, public health, environmental and transportation advocacy groups, as well as of hundreds of concerned citizens from Milwaukee and beyond. With spending on big-ticket highway expansions skyrocketing statewide at the expense of local infrastructure investments — and increasingly financed by heavy borrowing — CMRT is calling for more responsible, cost-effective transportation spending that better meets local needs.
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