A controversial $1 billion plan to expand I-94 on Milwaukee's west side will be the subject of two public input meetings

·2 min read
A controversial plan to expand I-94 on Milwaukee's west side will be the subject of two public input meetings scheduled for Dec. 8 and Dec. 9.
A controversial plan to expand I-94 on Milwaukee's west side will be the subject of two public input meetings scheduled for Dec. 8 and Dec. 9.

A controversial plan to expand I-94 on Milwaukee's west side will be the subject of two public input meetings.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation is hosting the open house-style meetings on Wednesday, Dec. 8, at State Fair Park's Tommy Thompson Youth Center, 640 S. 84th St., and on Thursday, Dec. 9, at the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources office, 1027 W. St. Paul Ave.

Both meetings will run from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

The public is invited to view I-94 East-West project information, talk with project staff and submit input on alternative designs for the corridor.

The department announced in April it would do a supplemental environmental impact statement on the project — in part to better assess traffic patterns changes tied to the COVID-19 pandemic.

That statement will identify a "preferred alternative" for the project, with a public hearing in summer 2022. Alternatives include adding more lanes, or instead modernizing the freeway without additional lanes.

An updated timeline recently released by the department shows final federal review of the preferred alternative possibly being completed in 2023.

The timeline has construction starting in 2025, and lasting four years, if the project obtains final federal and state approvals.

A possible expansion, with an estimated $1 billion price tag, would grow I-94 from six lanes to eight lanes between 16th and 70th streets.

That's needed to reduce congestion and improve safety, according to DOT.

That includes providing a reliable link within the state's freeway system for trucks that haul freight throughout Wisconsin and other states.

But opponents say the aging stretch of freeway can be rebuilt and made safer without the additional lanes — which they say aren't justified based on DOT's traffic counts.

People opposing the expansion also say the project's benefits are overstated and favor suburban commuters over Black people living near the freeway — many of whom don't own cars.

The I-94 expansion project to eight lanes was first proposed by then-Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican.

It received federal approval to pay most of its costs. But Walker in 2017 dropped the project because the state didn't have a way to fund its share.

Since then, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and Republicans who control the Legislature have added money for road projects by raising vehicle title and registration fees.

Evers, who defeated Walker in 2018, in July 2020 announced plans to revive the expansion project.

Evers' 2021-2023 budget, approved by the Legislature, includes $82 million for design work, real estate acquisitions and utility relocations, with additional funding likely to be requested in the 2023-2025 budget.

Tom Daykin can be emailed at tdaykin@jrn.com and followed on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Plan to expand I-94 on Milwaukee's west side has public input meetings

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