© 2024 Milwaukee Public Media is a service of UW-Milwaukee's College of Letters & Science
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

One group is reimagining I-794 as a boulevard in downtown Milwaukee

Rethink 794 is making their argument for removing a section of the I-794 highway to connect the Milwaukee Downtown and Third Ward areas.
Taylor Korslin
Rethink 794
Rethink 794 is making their argument for removing a section of the I-794 highway to connect the Milwaukee Downtown and Third Ward areas.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation has been conducting studies to see how reconstruction of areas can lead to better travel, such as expanding the number of lanes of I-94 on Milwaukee’s west side or potentially replacing portions of the east ramps of the I-794 Lake Interchange.

Milwaukee based architect Taylor Korslin and landscape architect Xu Zhang are members of the group Rethink 794. The group argues tearing down a portion of I-794 would enrich the city by removing an unnecessary barrier between Downtown Milwaukee and the Third Ward.

The group is looking to only replace the east-west elevated freeway between North Lincoln Memorial Drive and North 6th St. to be replaced with a street-level boulevard.

Zhang says, "Because of success of the Third Ward, it's such a lively and walkable area and we see a unique opportunity to extend that connectivity and walkability to other parts of the city and downtown."

Korslin adds, "We could see the same kind of investment and momentum that happened with the Park East freeway removal project near the Bucks Stadium and all of that development that came along. We could see that same thing mirrored next to the Public Market, the Summerfest grounds and the lakefront."

Zhang believes that connecting these areas would not only create an ideal walking area but also provide an ideal environment for expansion and development in the area.

She says, "As urban designer[s], we always like to talk about walkability. What makes a place walkable is to have the building walls creating enclosure on both sides, creating economic development coming from the potential real estate development with the reclaimed highway space."

Though the prospect may seem ambitious, Korslin believes that it is an attainable endeavor and references several areas within the Midwest, such as Minneapolis and Detroit, that have completed similar projects.

Zhang emphasizes, "[Highway structures] have a really long life span, so once it is build it will stay there, probably for the rest of our lives. So, please take a moment to think about the future that you want and show up in the public engagement meetings and make your voice heard."

Information is available to engage with the Department of Transportation about the I-794 Lake Interchange. The City of Milwaukee's Department of City Development (DCD) and Milwaukee Downtown, BID #21 will be hosting an open house meeting to talk about the Downtown Plan 2040. The open house will take place Dec. 7 from 3:30 - 6:30 p.m. at Third Street Market Hall, located at 275 W. Wisconsin Avenue.

Additionally, there will be additional public hearings about regarding the I-94 East-West corridor, between 70th and 16th streets.


Mallory Cheng was a Lake Effect producer from 2021 to 2023.
Rob is All Things Considered Host and Digital Producer.
Related Content