Stadium Freeway’s Future to be Reexamined
Multiple sources confirm to The Recombobulation Area that state, county and city leaders will be making an announcement on the future of Wisconsin Highway 175 next week.
The Recombobulation Area is a six-time Milwaukee Press Club award-winning weekly opinion column and online publication written and published by veteran Milwaukee journalist Dan Shafer. Learn more about it here.
The future of the Stadium Freeway, a roughly two-mile stretch of Wisconsin Highway 175 on the city of Milwaukee’s west side, is going to be reexamined, multiple sources confirm to The Recombobulation Area.
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation, along with partners from Milwaukee County and the City of Milwaukee, will be undertaking a new study to look at the future of the freeway spur. An announcement is planned for Thursday, May 5*, at Washington Park, which borders the highway.
(*UPDATE 5/02: This event has been rescheduled for Wednesday, May 4.)
Leaders who will be speaking at the event will include Secretary of Transportation Craig Thompson, Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley, and Mayor Cavalier Johnson. Several more local officials, as well as representatives from a number of businesses and local organizations, are also expected to attend.
The Recombobulation Area’s “Expanding the Divide” series, the winner of three Milwaukee Press Club Excellence in Wisconsin Journalism Awards, took an in-depth look at the proposed expansion and widening of Interstate 94 in Milwaukee. Part of that series included the column, “Tear Down the Stadium Freeway,” which advocates for converting the highway to a boulevard to reconnect neighborhoods divided by this stretch of freeway.
Earlier this week, Urban Milwaukee reported that city officials from the Department of Public Works have expressed interest in exploring a possible reconfiguration of the Stadium Freeway, utilizing a program that’s part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
That program would likely be the Reconnecting Communities Pilot Program, which aims to “restore community connectivity by removing, retrofitting, or mitigating highways or other transportation facilities that create barriers to community connectivity, including to mobility, access, or economic development.”
County Executive Crowley mentioned this program at a Feb. 3 panel on the infrastructure law hosted by WisPolitics.
“I want to look at State Highway 175,” he said. “When you look at Washington Heights, the north Milwaukee community, they’re separated from Washington Park…So, how can we reimagine that? There are going to be dollars available, “Reconnecting Communities,” a pilot program, for us to apply (for) a feasibility study to look at what it would take to actually remove these types of transportational barriers.”
Crowley isn’t the only local leader to express interest in reimagining the Stadium Freeway. Mayor Cavalier Johnson, in an interview with The Recombobulation Area during the mayoral campaign, said he agrees with the proposal to tear down the Stadium Freeway and convert it to a boulevard.
“The more you're able to tear down those walls, (the more) you're able to bring people back together and recreate a sort of vibrancy,'' he said. “Creating a boulevard there I think helps with just that – reconnecting those neighborhoods with Washington Park, right across from that spur. There's a lot of things I think that we can do with respect to changing our infrastructure and making our communities whole again.”
Several groups opposed to the proposed expansion and widening of I-94 released an alternative plan in Sept. 2021. Part of that plan advocates for converting the Stadium Freeway to a boulevard.
When the Wisconsin Department of Transportation released updated plans on the expansion and widening project in Dec. 2021, WisDOT spokesman Michael Pyritz told The Recombobulation Area that while it would not be included in the larger highway expansion project, the Stadium Freeway could still be torn down or converted, north of Wisconsin Avenue.
“The East-West project, its terminus at the north end is at Wisconsin Avenue,” said Pyritz in December. “Whatever we leave at that spot will be able to interact and function equally well, whether it stays in a similar configuration as it is today, or, there’s been some thoughts about making it a boulevard or changing the scope of it, changing how it interacts with the neighborhood.”
Another connection to this proposed freeway reconstruction project that’s come up in recent months is how the highway would interact with American Family Field, as the Milwaukee Brewers face a potential need for new revenue to fund upgrades at the stadium. Reconfiguring the Stadium Freeway would allow for new space for a potential “Beer District,” as some — such as Recombobulation Area guest columnist Robin Palm — have proposed.
This story will be updated with more information as it develops.
Dan Shafer is a journalist from Milwaukee who writes and publishes 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 won 13 Milwaukee Press Club Excellence in Journalism Awards. He’s on Twitter at @DanRShafer.
Follow Dan Shafer on Twitter at @DanRShafer.