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: Rebuild I-94 in Milwaukee - John Raines, John Schmitt, Terry McGowan and Tony Mayrhofer - Feb 20th, 2021
- Coalition Opposes I-94 Expansion Project - Coalition for More Responsible Transportation - Feb 17th, 2021
- Construction Business Group Supports Governor Evers’ State Budget Proposal - Construction Business Group - Feb 17th, 2021
- Labor Leaders Voice Support For The I-94 East-West Corridor Project - Press Release - Feb 16th, 2021
- Transportation: Council Disagrees on I-94 Expansion - Jeramey Jannene - Feb 9th, 2021
- Transportation: City Pushing Back On Interstate 94 Expansion, Not Reconstruction - Jeramey Jannene - Feb 1st, 2021
- Ald. Bauman introduces resolution directing the City to lobby against I-94 reconstruction - Ald. Bob Bauman - Jan 21st, 2021
- Transportation: Interstate 94 Expansion Gets Cold Reception at City Hall - Jeramey Jannene - Jan 7th, 2021
- Op Ed: We Oppose I-94 Expansion - Cassie Steiner, Gregg May, Megan Severson, Lester Williams and Cheryl Nenn - Nov 18th, 2020
- Op Ed: Don’t Expand I-94 - James Davies - Jul 18th, 2020
Read more about I-94 East-West Expansion here