County Committee Backs I-94 ‘Fix at Six’
Resolution next goes to full county board. MICAH leader warns the state could be sued.
A committee of the Milwaukee County Board approved a resolution Tuesday opposing the planned expansion of Interstate 94 between 70th and 16th streets and advocating for the “Fix at Six” proposal that calls for making fixes to the freeway without expanding it.
The resolution was authored by Sup. Peter Burgelis. “The most important piece of this I-94 project is that the freeway needs to be redesigned,” Burgelis told his colleagues on the board’s Committee on Transportation and Transit.
The “Fix at Six” plan for the interstate came from a group of community organizations called the Coalition For More Responsible Transportation. The plan would welcome a rebuilt freeway that improves safety, but not an additional lane. Joyce Ellwanger of Milwaukee Inner-city Congregations Allied for Hope (MICAH), which is a member of the coalition, noted that the “Fix at Six” is not the same plan as the six-lane proposal from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT). Rather, she said, it’s a different plan that was designed by a transportation planner who formerly worked for the New Jersey Department of Transportation, Mark Stout.
WisDOT announced early in November that it planned to move forward with its $1.2 billion expansion of the interstate, which would also include a replacement of the stadium interchange near American Family Field with a diverging diamond design.
The interstate expansion project was originally proposed under former Gov. Scott Walker, but shelved for lack of funds. Gov. Tony Evers revived the project in 2020 based on the original plan from 2016. In 2021, WisDOT agreed to conduct a supplemental study. Meanwhile, community groups have pushed for “Fix at Six.”
Donna Brown-Martin, director of the Milwaukee County Department of Transportation, said her department was still reviewing the “pretty lengthy” supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, and was not prepared to take a position on Burgelis’ resolution. She proposed the board wait to consider the resolution until after MCDOT finished reviewing the statement in January.
Burgelis’ resolution would make it the county’s policy to oppose expansion and support “Fix at Six” and the diverging diamond at the Stadium Interchange. It also makes it the county’s official position that it “denounces further State of Wisconsin destruction of Milwaukee County tax base, the displacement of businesses and residences, and the expansion of unsightly, noisy, and pollutive highways that do not pay property taxes and reduce surrounding property values.”
Bliesner told the committee that the plan’s latest design would require the state to demolish one home and six businesses. “And we really tried hard not to take that one,” he said. While WisDOT is set on its plan to expand the interstate to eight lanes, Bliesner said “there’s certainly lots of smaller decisions that will be made over the coming years as we further these designs, and those are all still subject to feedback and revision.”
These people are already “subject to intense noise and air pollution” that will be worsened by the expansion, Ellwanger said. “When we were knocking on doors. It was like you were in the middle of the freeway talking to people on their front porch, and many of them have children.”
Ellwanger said MICAH finds the WisDOT proposals — both eight and six lanes options — to be unjust and unacceptable, and urged the agency to consider the project through a racial equity lens.
And she added this warning: “As in the past, we will consider all the options including a lawsuit if that becomes necessary to make our concerns known.”
MICAH has experience with lawsuits against WisDOT projects. Along with the Black Health Coalition, it sued the state over the Zoo Interchange project in federal court, with the support of the ACLU and Midwest Environmental Advocates. The case was resolved with a settlement agreement that required the state to provide $13.5 million for public transit in Milwaukee County.
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- 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
Read more about I-94 East-West Expansion here