Protesters Oppose Double-Decker Freeway
State wants either a double decker or 8-lane freeway through heart of city. Protestors demand different approach.
Last Monday night, as the Wisconsin DOT went through the motions of a Power Point presentation about the latest highway expansion it wants to gouge through Milwaukee, a group of protesters outside the meeting shouted their frustration with an agency that has spent lavishly on roads to the exclusion of all other modes.
The protesters’ message was simple. “Stop the highway.” Instead of sinking a billion dollars into another highway that won’t solve the region’s transportation problems, they called for different options: better transit, walking, and biking connections.
Right now, the state is only thinking about cramming more cars into the Milwaukee transportation network. Wisconsin has settled on two options for the Interstate 94 corridor, and both involved widening 3.5 miles of highway. The first proposal is an eight-lane at-grade freeway. The second and even more ridiculous option is a double-decker freeway. WisDOT put forward this latter design out of a desire to add lanes — to “manage congestion” — without having to unearth the graves of veterans in the cemetery surrounding the road. (As Jeramey Jannene has reported, Mayor Tom Barrett has asked Gov. Scott Walker to reject the double decker idea and Walker has said all options are on the table — except moving the graves.)
But the protesters, who represent a coalition of groups from around the state and Milwaukee, reject both of the alternatives. That’s why instead of attending the meeting on Monday, they were outside protesting. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation should go back to the drawing board, said Bruce Speight of the Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group, one of the organizing groups.
“We don’t need to expand the highway,” he said. “We need to give people real options.”
The same coalition, representing racial minorities in Wisconsin, recently settled in court with the state over the $1.7 billion “Zoo Interchange” project, which they alleged was discriminatory. After a judge issued an interim ruling in their favor, the groups agreed to a settlement that awarded $13.5 million in transit funding.
While that was an important win, $13.5 million is peanuts compared to what Wisconsin spends to move people faster in cars. Speight said the DOT’s billion-dollar proposal for I-94 is expected to save the average commuter just four minutes.
“They were talking about the need to probably widen it again in 25 years,” he said. “If we provide more and better options… we’ll actually solve the problem and give the people of Milwaukee better roads and transit options.”
“This is just an unnecessary, misguided, and wasteful project.”
Story by Angie Schmitt. A version of this story originally ran on Streetsblog. Angie Schmitt is a newspaper reporter-turned planner/advocate who manages the Streetsblog Network from glamorous Cleveland, Ohio. She also writes about urban issues particular to the industrial Midwest at Rustwire.com.