Wisconsin DOT Updates Timeline on I-94 East-West Project, Freeway Construction Now Projected to Start in 2025
WisDOT is also planning its first public involvement meetings on this project, for Dec. 8 and Dec. 9 in Milwaukee, and is considering a six-lane reconstruction option.
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) has updated a timeline on the proposed expansion of the 3.5-mile East-West corridor of I-94 that would put the beginning of freeway construction in the year 2025.
In a Fall Newsletter on the project, WisDOT released a new “anticipated project schedule.” See here:
This updated timeline also shows that much is planned for the next year, including continued study and analysis, identifying a preferred option, further community input, and a public hearing tentatively set for mid-2022. Any potential start-times for construction, too, would be “dependent on funding and federal/state approvals.”
Also in that newsletter, WisDOT says it is “examining two main alternatives for the future layout,” for the I-94 project, with the primary difference between the two being the total number of lanes — six vs. eight — on the stretch of highway between 16th Street and 70th Street in Milwaukee.
It is significant that a “full evaluation” of a six-lane option is included in this update.
WisDOT’s proposal for the project, re-introduced by Gov. Tony Evers in 2020 and advanced in the state budget by the Republican-controlled state legislature in 2021, have always included expansion of the 3.5-mile stretch of I-94, particularly widening the freeway with two additional lanes.
Groups opposed to this type of expansion have supported the modernization and reconstruction of the highway in its current six-lane footprint, proposing an alternative plan dubbed “Fix at Six” (details on that plan here).
In terms of cost, a six-lane modernization option is estimated to be between $800 million and $850 million, WisDOT Secretary Craig Thompson told The Recombobulation Area for our “Expanding the Divide” series earlier this year, and the eight-lane option is estimated to be $1.1 billion.
The newsletter says “a preferred alternative will be identified in the SEIS (Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement) and a public hearing will be held in summer of 2022.”
WisDOT is also planning two public involvement meetings on the I-94 project.
The first event will be held on Dec. 8 at State Fair Park. The second will be Dec. 9 at the WDNR Milwaukee Office. Each event will run from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. (Find addresses for these exact locations below.)
According to a flyer — which arrived not in a press release, but via snail mail here on Milwaukee’s west side — the public involvement meetings will be “open house style,” and people are invited to “view I-94 East-West project information, talk with project staff, and submit input on alternative designs for the corridor.”
These will be the first public events specific to this project held since WisDOT announced in April that it would expand the review of the project with a new SEIS.
When we interviewed Thompson for our “Expanding the Divide” series, he said that WisDOT and Tony Evers’ administration would be committed to a robust public engagement process over the next year. This appears to be the beginning of that process.
Part of what’s being looked at, as WisDOT examines the six-lane and eight-lane options, include what each of these two alternatives has in common, and what other issues need to be sorted through.
What both options under consideration have in common are: a redesigned Stadium Interchange, the removal of left-side entrance and exit ramps, the maintained configuration of 68th/70th, 35th, and 25th-28th Street interchanges, and a study on modifications to improve bike and pedestrian connectivity on local roads, particularly underneath the Stadium Interchange.
Additionally, within the six vs. eight debate, another key point being sorted through include how to reconstruct the Hawley Road interchange. Initial expansion plans only had on/off ramps on the west side of the interchange, and a six-lane option could allow for ramps in both directions. There’s also the question of how to “reduce property impacts” at the 35th Street and 68th Street interchanges, as expansion would potentially impact individual homes in adjacent neighborhoods.
In the “Coordination Plan for Agency and Public Involvement” as part of the SEIS, WisDOT outlines several upcoming and ongoing action items within the department, including review discussion of preferred alternatives, at certain points in the first few months of 2022. These plans estimate that a draft SEIS would be filed with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by July 2022, with a public hearing in August 2022, and a final SEIS filed by June 2023.
The Washington Heights Neighborhood Association’s CITY Committee is currently conducting a survey on the proposed expansion. Neighbors and non-neighbors are invited to weigh in. Find the survey here.
The time to have your say on this project is rapidly approaching. Get involved.
Public Involvement Meeting
December 8, 2021
4 p.m. - 7 p.m.
State Fair Park, Tommy Thompson Youth Center, Gate #5
640 S. 84th St., Milwaukee
MCTS Route 33
December 9, 2021
4 p.m. - 7 p.m.
WDNR Milwaukee Office
1027 W. St. Paul, Milwaukee
Connections at nearby intermodal station - via Hop, MCTS Routes 12, 31
Dan Shafer is a journalist from Milwaukee who writes and publishes the award-winning column, The Recombobulation Area. He previously worked at Seattle Magazine, Seattle Business Magazine, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine, and BizTimes Milwaukee. He’s also written for The Daily Beast, WisPolitics, and Milwaukee Record. He’s on Twitter at @DanRShafer.
Follow Dan Shafer on Twitter at @DanRShafer.