Federal judge’s decision on Zoo Interchange Environmental Impact Statement creates opportunity for new direction in transportation investment
Alderman Bauman calls for new alternative for I-94 rebuilding project that would invest in freeway rebuilding, local road reconstruction and expansion of Milwaukee Streetcar
The recent ruling by federal Judge Lynn Adelman finding that the state Department of Transportation’s Environmental Impact Statement supporting the $1.7 billion taxpayer funded rebuilding and expansion of the Zoo Interchange is deficient and violates federal law sends a strong message that unrestrained highway building and expansion in southeastern Wisconsin at the expense of public transit and other projects must be stopped, Alderman Robert J. Bauman said today.
Alderman Bauman, a longtime transit advocate and chair of the Common Council’s Public Works Committee, said Judge Adelman’s decision “is a strong endorsement that southeastern Wisconsin’s transportation needs must be reflected in balanced investments in local roads, freeways and transit which serve the economic and social needs of all citizens and all areas of the region.”
The issues raised in Judge Adelman’s decision, Alderman Bauman said, are also present in the current environmental review process for the rebuilding and potential expansion of I-94 from N. 25th St. to N. 70th St. (a distance of 2.85 miles). At present, the cost estimates for this project range from $370 million to reconstruct the freeway in its current configuration to $1.2 billion to rebuild and expand the freeway (which includes sections of double decking through the Story Hill neighborhood and moving the entire right-of-way in the Merrill Park neighborhood).
The alderman said the DOT should immediately suspend the environmental review process for the I-94 project and cancel public information meetings scheduled for May 21 and 22, 2013, so that the impact of Judge Adelman’s decision on this project can be fully assessed.
In the meantime, Alderman Bauman is recommending the DOT immediately consider a new alternative. That alternative would spend $370 million to reconstruct I-94 from 25th St. to 70th St. and allocate the savings between this option and the expansion option — as much as $830 million — to three other infrastructure investments. Specifically, the state should spend 1/3 of the savings on repairing and reconstructing local roads and streets which, especially in Milwaukee, are in badly deteriorated condition; spend 1/3 on repairing other state highways and bridges; and spend 1/3 on expanding the Milwaukee Streetcar to UW-Milwaukee on the east side, Miller Park on the west side, the 30th Street Corridor on the north side, and to Walker’s Point on the south side.
This new alternative would represent a balanced approach to investing in transportation infrastructure which is precisely what Judge Adelman’s decision urges, Alderman Bauman said.
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The funding will come through a non-state grant program that provides state bonding support for non-profit or local government projects that have a statewide public purpose.
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