Council Disagrees on I-94 Expansion
Council once opposed it, but now wavering. Bauman blames disinformation by unions and WisDOT.
The Milwaukee Common Council was poised to reiterate its prior vote to oppose Interstate 94 expansion and authorize the city’s intergovernmental relations team to lobby to oppose the restarted project. Then things went sideways at the Tuesday morning meeting and the council sent the authorization back to a committee for further review.
“To be frank, we have been inundated with misinformation and attacks by organized labor,” said Alderman Robert Bauman, the measure’s author. “The bottom line is the City of Milwaukee supports the reconstruction of Interstate 94.”
But Governor Tony Evers reactivated the project last year and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) is now asking the federal government to reinstate that authorization, avoiding the need for a new environmental impact study and public hearings. The city’s lobbying team, should the council authorize it, would request the federal government not do so.
“This has been a smokescreen put up by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to confuse members,” said Bauman. “The [WisDOT] letter that was sent to this body, and is included in the file, contains blatant misstatements of facts.”
Bauman said WisDOT’s letter explicitly said the project would not cost over $1 billion. But on January 7th, WisDOT project director Brian Bliesner told a council committee the project would cost over $1 billion because of delays.
“We support the jobs that this project represents, we have always supported the jobs that this project represents,” said Bauman. He reiterated that the city supports a “fix it first” approach of reconstruction, not expansion. The alderman said his colleagues were being misled and that many of the jobs would go to suburban residents, not city residents.
He suggested the misinformation is more difficult to combat due to virtual council proceedings. As a result of the pandemic, most members are not in their City Hall office all day, which limits the ability of them to informally discuss and address issues.
“I frankly don’t know where the votes are,” said Bauman after Ald. Mark Borkowski said he would vote no and Alderwoman Milele A. Coggs said she would abstain from voting. He moved to send the request back to a committee, preventing a possible rejection.
The council voted unanimously, with Coggs abstaining without explanation, to send the file back to committee.
The Judiciary & Legislation Committee will again debate the request at an upcoming meeting.
- Op Ed: Expanded I-94 Will Damage Pigsville - Leland Pan - Jan 10th, 2022
- Transportation: Interstate 94 Project Cost Much Higher Than Original Estimate - Jeramey Jannene - Dec 10th, 2021
- Transportation: Public Input Sought on Controversial Interstate 94 Expansion - Jeramey Jannene - Dec 3rd, 2021
- Op Ed: Did I-94 End Milwaukee’s Population Growth? - David Jasenski - Sep 22nd, 2021
- Transportation: Plan Offers Alternative To Expanded I-94 - Jeramey Jannene - Sep 14th, 2021
- Statement from Mayor Barrett on the New Impact Review for the I-94 Project - Mayor Tom Barrett - Apr 15th, 2021
- Advocates applaud opportunity for public input on I-94 East-West project, but new environmental review process still needed - Press Release - Apr 15th, 2021
- Transportation: State Delaying Interstate 94 Expansion For New Study - Jeramey Jannene - Apr 15th, 2021
- Transportation: Freeway Expansion Opponents To Meet With Biden Administration - Jeramey Jannene - Apr 8th, 2021
- Op Ed: Evers Is Wrong on I-94 Expansion - John Norquist - Mar 16th, 2021
Read more about I-94 East-West Expansion here