The controversial option of double-decking I-94 near Miller Park is off the table.
State officials announced their preferred blueprint at a news conference on Tuesday. DOT leaders say they’ve chosen a lower-cost and less disruptive option to ease congestion on the busy freeway.
Every day, up to 160,000 vehicles travel I-94 between 16th and 70th streets in Milwaukee. And it’s not particularly safe, according to Department of Transportation Sec. Mark Gottlieb.
He says the corridor’s early 1960s design no longer makes sense for today’s traffic patterns, and the infrastructure is crumbling.
“Our study on this segment’s been very comprehensive. It’s been underway for nearly three years, included five public involvement meetings, two public hearings and countless other meetings with businesses, resident groups, local governments and other interested stakeholders,” Gottlieb says.
Gottlieb says after considering all that input, his agency concludes that the best way to improve safety and travel times in the stadium corridor is to move several ramps and add one lane in each direction.
The DOT had considered double-decking the freeway there because it dissects the veterans’ cemetery, with little room to spare.
But the secretary says instead, the agency wants to convert the outside shoulders to fourth lanes. Double decking would have cost more than $300 million.
“The preferred alternative is estimated to be $255 million less costly than the highest-cost alternative and has a much lower potential for impacts to the surrounding neighborhoods,” Gottlieb says.
The DOT’s plan to widen the corridor and reconstruct interchanges is expected to cost $850 million. Gottlieb says a mix of federal and state dollars, and state borrowing, will pay for the project.
The less-expensive option still doesn’t sit well with several groups. They plan to continue lobbying against any work on I-94.
“It’s a billion-dollar boondoggle,” says Peter Skopec, with WISPIRG, a citizen advocacy group.
He says Wisconsin taxpayers can’t afford the freeway expansion, and many have testified against it at public meetings. Skopec also contends the project is unnecessary, citing data that show traffic along the corridor has declined over the past 12 years.
“So really, any responsible legislator should decide to oppose this expansion and do the responsible thing for Wisconsin, especially since our local infrastructure, our local roads and bridges, are crumbling,” Skopec says.
The DOT did not allow Skopec and other opponents into the agency’s press conference Tuesday at the Intermodal Station in Milwaukee.
Sec. Gottlieb said the event was meant for the media. He says there will be several more chances for the public to offer input as the plan moves into the design and engineering phases.
The DOT says construction will likely start in 2019 at the earliest and take three to four years to complete.