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Future of I-94: Update & Expansion Plan In Question

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Wisconsin DOT
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The plan to update and expand I-94 is on hold for at least a year as the Wisconsin Department of Transportation conducts a new environmental impact study.

Ever since Gov. Tony Evers revived the plan to update and expand I-94 in Milwaukee, there has been controversy.

The plan would impact neighborhoods on the near south and north side of the city, which some critics say would bear the brunt of the disruption without getting most of the benefits. Others believe the plan could further divide a city already broken up by a highway system that has reinforced segregation. Right now, the plan is on hold for at least a year as the Wisconsin Department of Transportation conducts a new environmental impact study.

"Basically what that means is they have to collect all kinds of resources and data about what type of impact this would have. ... This is not a brand new proposal and much of the research and facts and data that went into that DEIS (draft environmental impact study) before is from more than five years ago," says Dan Shafer, columnist and publisher for The Recombobulation Area.

Shafer has been looking at the proposal in his series "Expanding the Divide" and analyzing the criticisms of the plan as well as some possible solutions. He says since this plan was initially proposed by then Gov. Scott Walker, there have been a lot of changes in the ways we think about transportation. And, recent changes at the federal level are shifting the way we think about highway systems in major cities, with an emphasis on transportation solutions that can help reconnect neighborhoods.

In Milwaukee, most critics are opposed to expanding the highway but agree that I-94 needs to be updated. "Many of the opponents want to see the highway fixed in the footprint that it’s in now. But one of the things that I wrote about was the possibility of kind of reexamining how things work at that stadium interchange and with that stadium freeway," says Shafer.

He believes future conversations should look at how these highways are serving the cities needs, and how we can use transit to mend a variety of issues in Milwaukee.

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