State Picks I-94 Expansion Over ‘Fix at Six’ Proposal
But smaller Stadium Interchange proposed. Public meetings planned on final design for $1.2 billion project.
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) is sticking with its earlier proposal to expand Interstate 94 between N. 16th and N. 70th St. The revised, $1.2 billion project would add a fourth lane in each direction to the freeway as part of a complete, 3.5-mile reconstruction. It would also replace the Stadium Interchange near American Family Field with a smaller, diverging diamond design.
“Safety is our agency’s highest priority and doing nothing about this section of I-94 is not an option,” WisDOT Secretary Craig Thompson said in a statement announcing the recommendation. “Listening to people who live in the community is a vital part of creating safe roads. We placed a high priority on public involvement during the I-94 East-West reevaluation which resulted in significant changes to the previous proposal, and we remain committed to working with stakeholders to minimize any impacts to the community.”
WisDOT studied a six-lane configuration, but concluded it would cost approximately the same amount in large part because the total width of the freeway corridor and the design of the Stadium Interchange were nearly identical under both study options. And while WisDOT, in partnership with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), is now recommending the eight-lane option, it’s also recommending a different interchange with Wisconsin Highway 175 than was originally proposed in 2016.
The diverging diamond concept, first unveiled in June, would involve the north-south roadways through the interchange running underneath the elevated east-west freeway. Controlled by stop lights, traffic would briefly drive on what would be considered the “wrong side of the road.” The design strategy results in fewer collision points than a traditional interchange because on-off ramp access doesn’t involve crossing lanes. WisDOT has recently used the design strategy at other interchanges.
The now-completed supplemental study anticipates the final project would cost $1.2 billion in 2021 dollars. The six-lane option would cost $1.13 billion. Reverting either option to the larger interchange would add $80 million to the cost of the project. Construction on the project would start in 2025.
The final design proposed in the study requires the acquisition of 49 acres of land the displacement of six businesses and one home. The six-lane option would have required one less acre of land. The study says the number of commercial and residential displacements was reduced from 11 and eight respectively as a result of design refinements. A number of changes were made to the proposed ramp reconfigurations in the 2016 plan to reduce project costs and displacement. The N. Hawley Rd., N. 35th St. and N. 25th/27th St. ramps would still see new configurations.
The first hearing is to take place Dec. 12 from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Tommy Thompson Youth Center, 640 S. 84th St. The second is on Dec. 14 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Marquette University High School, 3401 W. Wisconsin Ave. (enter from Michigan St. parking lot). The same information will be presented at both events.
WisDOT, in a press release, said it would invest $25 million in “transit solutions” during the construction process to mitigate the impact. County officials have hoped to use some of the funding to support the development of the 27th Street bus rapid transit line. The project plan also calls for improved bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure near the freeway.
A study is still underway on converting a portion of Wisconsin Highway 175 to the north to a boulevard. A coalition is also advocating for converting a portion of Interstate 794 to a boulevard.
In press releases issued after this article was first published, project opponents objected to WisDOT’s proposal.
“It is unacceptable that WisDOT has ignored the calls of thousands of Wisconsinites to fix the highway at six lanes and instead decided to move forward with an eight-lane proposal,” said Elizabeth Ward, director of Sierra Club Wisconsin Chapter. “This proposal will increase water and climate pollution, health problems, racial disparities, and more. WisDOT needs to reconsider and move forward with a Fix at Six solution.”
“We have heard time and time again that residents want to see valuable public dollars allocated to the repair of existing local roads, other critical local transportation infrastructure, and enhanced public transit,” said area council members Michael Murphy and Robert Bauman. “To invest such a hefty sum of money into a project that will disrupt businesses and homeowners represents spending priorities that do not align with what people want, especially when traffic volume doesn’t justify the need for additional lanes.”
The pro-expansion I-94 East-West Econ Connect group praised the project.
“We thank WisDOT and FHWA for all the work they have done on this project,” said Corey Zetts, executive director of the Menomonee Valley Partners. “WisDOT analyzed the options using the latest data, continuously sought input from stakeholders, and has incorporated stakeholder feedback for improved bike and pedestrian facilities planned along the various local roadways as part of the project. This diligence will pay dividends for decades with a reduction in congestion-related traffic accidents and a corridor ready to keep up with the region’s bright future.”
The completed study, formally the Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement, is available on WisDOT’s website.
If you think stories like this are important, become a member of Urban Milwaukee and help support real, independent journalism. Plus you get some cool added benefits.
- Residents Concerned I-94 Widening Would Increase Flooding In Nearby Neighborhoods - Jonah Chester - Aug 10th, 2023
- Eyes on Milwaukee: I-94 Expansion Public Comment Deadline Extended - Jeramey Jannene - Jan 6th, 2023
- I-94 East-West study public comment period extended to January 31, 2023 - Wisconsin Department of Transportation - Jan 3rd, 2023
- Transportation: Opponents Assail I-94 Expansion at Public Hearing - Graham Kilmer - Dec 13th, 2022
- Transportation: County Committee Backs I-94 ‘Fix at Six’ - Graham Kilmer - Nov 30th, 2022
- I-94 Fix-At-Six Resolution Recommended for Adoption by Milwaukee County Transportation and Transit Committee - Sup. Peter Burgelis - Nov 29th, 2022
- Rep. Brostoff Statement in Opposition to Eight-Lane I-94 Expansion - Rep. Jonathan Brostoff - Nov 14th, 2022
- Supervisor Burgelis Decries DOT Preferred Alternative for I-94 East-West project - Sup. Peter Burgelis - Nov 11th, 2022
- Advocates oppose expansion announcement of I-94 East-West project - Coalition for More Responsible Transportation - Nov 11th, 2022
- Eight-lane I-94 East-West project proposal not in the best interest of area residents - Ald. Michael Murphy - Nov 11th, 2022
Read more about I-94 East-West Expansion here