Double Decker Freeway Would Hurt Soldiers Home
The at-grade alternative for reconstructing I-94 is better alternative, that won’t harm this landmark.
As our community considers options for the reconstruction and possible expansion of Interstate 94, we ask that the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) pursue the option with the least negative impact on one of Wisconsin’s and the nation’s most notable historic assets – the Milwaukee Soldiers Home National Historic Landmark District. Two options are currently being discussed, the double decker plan and the at-grade alternative. The latter is a far better option, when it comes to preserving the Soldiers Home. In addition, it costs roughly half that of the double-deck option being considered.
The Soldiers Home – a part of the Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center campus – was built in 1867 and still stands today as a reminder of our nation’s unwavering commitment to the health and safety of veterans. As one of roughly 50 National Historic Landmarks in Wisconsin, and a National Treasure site designated by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, we need to protect this important cultural landmark.
The Milwaukee Soldiers Home is among just three of the original Soldiers Homes in the country, with some of the oldest buildings in the VA system. It is the only Soldiers Home that retains the majority of its recuperative village and designed landscape. The buildings and landscape were designed to be places of refuge and healing, aiding veterans’ recuperation and easing their transition back into society.
For many, the Soldiers Home continues to play this role and it is our hope that by returning the District’s vacant buildings to the service of veterans, even more veterans and members of the community will experience the recuperative, healing value of the Soldiers Home.
Though neither option being considered for the expansion would result in graves being moved, the double decker option would have a substantial, and ongoing, negative impact on the Soldiers Home and Wood National Cemetery. Though separated by the interstate, Wood National Cemetery currently maintains visual continuity. Constructing a double deck interstate would completely separate the north and south portions of the cemetery, further isolating veterans buried on the north end of the cemetery from the Soldiers Home campus.
If an expansion of I-94 must occur, it is critical that WisDOT and the FHA select the at-grade option. Doing so will allow for the preservation and protection of the Soldiers Home and Wood National Cemetery, the final resting place of tens of thousands of our nation’s veterans.
David Brown is the Executive Vice President and Chief Preservation Officer at the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Dawn McCarthy is President of the Board of Directors for the Milwaukee Preservation Alliance. Tom Voss is an Iraq War Veteran. To learn more and sign on to a letter of support for the at-grade alternative to the expansion of I-94, visit www.SavetheSoldiershome.com.