Jeramey Jannene

City Pushing Back On Interstate 94 Expansion, Not Reconstruction

City poised to lobby feds to slow down WisDOT.

By - Feb 1st, 2021 04:49 pm
Road Closed. File photo by Dave Reid.

Road Closed. File photo by Dave Reid.

Governor Scott Walker pulled the plug on a plan to expand Interstate 94 between N. 16th St. and N. 70th St. in 2017. His administration asked the federal government to rescind its authorization of the project.

But Governor Tony Evers revived the plan in 2020 and now the Wisconsin Department of Transportation is hoping to reactivate the federal record of decision, avoiding the need for a new environmental impact study and public hearings.

“It’s basically a transparency issue in my mind,” said Alderman Robert Bauman when the Judiciary & Legislation Committee discussed the project Monday afternoon.

Bauman introduced a measure directing the city’s intergovernmental affairs team to lobby the federal government to block the state’s quick reactivation.

“Basically it asks them to go back to the drawing board in justifying the need to expand this freeway,” said Bauman. The committee unanimously backed his request and it will next go before the full council.

“The city is on record, from several years ago, opposing the expansion, but not the reconstruction,” said Bauman. The alderman estimates rebuilding, but not expanding, the highway would free up $200 million that could be spent elsewhere. That funding could go towards mass transit or other infrastructure improvements, like rebuilding streets or repairing potholes.

The total project cost is estimated to exceed $1 billion according to testimony from state officials at a January hearing. There are no direct city funds in the proposed project.

“We’re cognizant of the jobs, that’s why we’ve always supported reconstruction,” said Bauman. He said spending the expansion money on other improvements in the city would create the same number of jobs, but yield more benefits for city residents.

Bauman and co-sponsor Ald. Michael Murphy are asking that if the state wants to go through with the project, it needs to have public, in-person hearings and a new study. Bauman represents the eastern portion of the corridor, Murphy the western portion. Ald. Jose G. Perez represents the Menomonee Valley and the south side of the corridor.

Murphy said a recent virtual meeting for some of his constituents drew three attendees. “That’s not really public input,” the alderman said.

The westside alderman also wants the state to study the long-term impact of the pandemic on travel patterns before making a decision.

Joyce Ellwanger and David Jasenski, a former county supervisor and member of Milwaukee Inner-city Congregations Allied for Hope (MICAH), both spoke in support of a new study.

Categories: Transportation, Weekly

2 thoughts on “Transportation: City Pushing Back On Interstate 94 Expansion, Not Reconstruction”

  1. NickR says:

    Bobby is such a snake of a politician – sure, pretend to be concerned about the jobs even tho they will mostly go to suburban and out-of-town construction firms.

  2. Thomas Martinsen says:

    I disagree with Nick R if he is referring to Alderman Bauman as Bobby. The expansion of I-94 from W. 16th to 70th Street could benefit mostly suburbanites at the detriment of many city residents.

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