With I-94 Decision Pending, State & Local Leaders Oppose Wasteful Expansion, Call for Smarter Local Investments
Coalition Points to Ongoing Transportation Funding Crisis, Public Opposition; Demands More Cost-Effective Alternatives
WAUWATOSA – This December, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WISDOT) is expected to release its final design for the billion-dollar expansion of I-94 between the Zoo and Marquette Interchanges — despite massive public opposition, the continuing transportation budget crisis, and an ongoing audit of the Department’s State Highway Program. State legislators, local officials and members of the Coalition for More Responsible Transportation on Wednesday pointed to a deeply flawed project design and decision-making process, urging WISDOT to go back to the drawing board and provide more forward-thinking, cost-effective and community-oriented alternatives to the unneeded expansion.
“Moving forward with this billion-dollar expansion would be a huge mistake,” said Peter Skopec, WISPIRG Director. “Wisconsin’s transportation infrastructure is in crisis: Roads are riddled with potholes, bridges are crumbling, and people are cut off from the places they need to go without adequate public transit service. So instead of spending massively to add lanes to I-94, why not invest that money in better maintaining the roads and highways we already have, and in creating a 21st century transportation system that meets real needs?”
WISDOT has proposed to add lanes to a 3.5-mile stretch of I-94, at an expected cost of upwards of $850 million. The state legislature decided to put the proposed expansion of I-94 on hold due to a lack of funding in June, and in October voted with bipartisan support to audit WISDOT’s State Highway Program for potentially faulty project planning and waste. The Department has projected strong increases in traffic along I-94 to justify this highway expansion, but recent traffic trends make these projections unlikely to materialize.
“The I-94 expansion project, as currently designed by WISDOT, is unpopular, unnecessary, and prohibitively expensive,” said State Representative Daniel Riemer, whose Milwaukee district includes a portion of the proposed highway expansion. “People young and old are looking for new ways to walk, bike, and bus their way to work, to shop, and to get around all over our great city. They’re not looking for new ways to jeopardize the future of their state’s fiscal health or to see their tax dollars wasted on unnecessary and unpopular boondoggle freeway projects.”
Hundreds of people and community advocates spoke out against the proposed highway expansion during a public comment period in 2014. Wauwatosa, the City of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County have all passed resolutions urging WISDOT to reconsider its plans and study better, non-expansion options.
“In October 2015, the Wauwatosa Common Council unanimously passed a resolution that opposes expansion of the I-94 East West Corridor,” said Wauwatosa Alderman Jeff Roznowski. “We’ve taken a leadership position among Milwaukee area suburbs in opposition to excessive spending and in support of responsible transportation planning, including transit options. Wauwatosa recognizes the economic impact of having good transportation connectivity options throughout metro Milwaukee, particularly for the 50,000 people who travel everyday from outside Wauwatosa to work in the city. Wauwatosa also values the economic and quality of life benefits of a robust pedestrian and biking network to support its dense, urban neighborhoods and business districts”.
“Only a few years back, WISDOT was sued over serious deficiencies in its environmental impact statement for the Zoo Interchange expansion,” added Dennis Grzezinski, J.D., an environmental attorney who has represented environmental and civil rights organizations in federal court cases regarding the Zoo Interchange project in Milwaukee and a proposed expansion of Highway 23 in Fond du Lac and Sheboygan counties. “Given this track record, I would think the Department would be more interested in getting its analysis and decision-making right this time around, rather than rushing to release a final environmental impact statement to further expand I-94. What’s the hurry, especially when it will be many years, if ever, before the agency might have funding to build the proposed project?”
“This is a project the community doesn’t want, Milwaukee doesn’t need, and Wisconsin simply can’t afford,” concluded Peter Skopec, WISPIRG Director. “WISDOT should go back to the drawing board and come up with a more forward-thinking alternative that truly meets the community’s needs, without bankrupting the state.”
The Coalition for More Responsible Transportation (CMRT) is composed of faith-based, public interest, social justice, public health, environmental and transportation advocacy groups, as well as of hundreds of concerned citizens from Milwaukee and beyond. With spending on big-ticket highway expansions skyrocketing statewide at the expense of local infrastructure investments — and increasingly financed by heavy borrowing — CMRT is calling for more responsible, cost-effective transportation spending that better meets local needs.
- 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
Mentioned in This Press Release
Recent Press Releases by Coalition for More Responsible Transportation
Transportation advocates condemn unprecedented cuts to Milwaukee and Madison transit systems while green-lighting the unnecessary I-94 E/W highway expansion project
Statement: Proposed state transportation budget will unnecessarily expand I-94 and leave transit riders in the dustJun 9th, 2021 by Coalition for More Responsible Transportation
Transportation advocates call for more action before the budget heads to Gov. Evers’ desk
Coalition for More Responsible Transportation Members Applaud Gov. Evers’ Proposed Transportation BudgetMar 1st, 2019 by Coalition for More Responsible Transportation
Groups support transit, road maintenance increase and focus on fixing instead of expanding highways