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Wisconsin DOT to hold more meetings this week about East-West Freeway, as neighbors concerns remain

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Chuck Quirmbach
/
WUWM
This playground in Milwaukee County's Valley Park is just down a short hill from I-94, near the Stadium Interchange.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation is holding two more public meetings this week on the possible re-do of I-94 between 16th and 70th streets in Milwaukee.

The reconstruction proposal continues to be a hot topic with critics who insist the DOT can get the job done by making repairs and adjustments to the existing six lanes of traffic and not narrowing lanes or road shoulders to add a driving lane each way. The Coalition for More Responsible Transportation, made up of neighborhood, religious and environmental groups, also wants only a scaled-down re-do of the Stadium Interchange near American Family Field.

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Chuck Quirmbach
/
WUWM
This photo is taken from Park Hill Ave., where many homes are located and the freeway is only a few hundred feet away.

Leland Pan lives in the Valley Park, or Piggsville neighborhood, just north of 94 and east of State Highway 175, which is the former Stadium North Freeway. Pan says a bigger interchange would be bad for the neighborhood's park, along the Menomonee River.

"Another thing is the interchange expansion doesn't address any of our neighborhood needs. Many of the people in my neighborhood don't even drive a car. We're talking about a neighborhood where many people are working class, who take public transit to work [and] to get groceries," Pan said at a Monday news conference near I-94.

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Chuck Quirmbach
/
WUWM
Leland Pan of the Valley Park neighborhood speaks during Monday's news conference.

Pan and other coalition members say downsizing the $1.2 billion freeway project would leave more money to expand mass transit on the near west side of Milwaukee, including adding electric buses and more frequent service along 27th St. and National Ave.

Rev. Joseph Jackson is President of Milwaukee Inner-City Congregations Allied for Hope (MICAH.) He contends widening I-94 would mainly benefit commuters and visitors from the suburbs.

"Suburbanites, predominantly white, on a regular they leave the city for the suburbs. And they have the benefit of fast and efficient routes, to jobs, other services and entertainment," Jackson said.

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Chuck Quirmbach
/
WUWM
Rev. Joseph Jackson of MICAH points toward I-94 during Monday's news event.

Some business groups and politicians support adding lanes to the East-West Freeway to relieve congestion. But the DOT says they've been listening to opponents too. DOT Regional Communications Manager Michael Pyritz says his agency has just rolled out the idea of a new stadium interchange that isn't as tall as a previous proposal.

He says the tentative new design is called a diverging diamond interchange, which involves drivers at surface level on Hwy.175 crossing over directions before or after being on the East-West Freeway.

"The way that will work is it will allow drivers to cross over to either exit from or enter to the 94 lanes of traffic. It has allowed us to reduce one of the layers of the flyover ramps that we shared back in December," Pyritz tells WUWM.

Pyritz says a few places in Wisconsin are now using a diverging diamond, including where State Highway 26 meets I-39 on the north side of Janesville.

Atty. Dennis Grzezinski of the Coalition for More Responsible Transportation says the interchange alternative being on the table is progress. He's just not sure how much.

"At their technical advisory team or committee meeting very recently, they announced that approach was going to use essentially as much land as the gigantic interchange they had proposed," Grzezinski says.

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Chuck Quirmbach
/
WUWM
Traffic on the East-West Freeway was relatively light at midday Monday. Supporters of I-94 expansion say there is often congestion during rush hours.

Grzezinski and the DOT agree that they want people to attend the department's public meetings—Tuesday afternoon at the Thompson Center at State Fair Park and Wednesday afternoon at Marquette University High School.

The DOT says it hopes to release a supplemental environmental impact statement on the East-West Freeway project late this year.

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