by Benjamin Yount
Although work has yet to begin to expand I-94 in western Milwaukee County, supporters hope they are almost done with the waiting.
Wisconsin’s Department of Transportation is wrapping-up its public meetings on the plan to expand I-94 between the Zoo Interchange and the Marquette Interchange from the current six lanes to eight lanes.
Tracy Johnson with the Commercial Association of REALTORS® Wisconsin said it’s been 10 years since the expansion was first proposed, and it’s time to finally start the work.
“We need to address the safety concerns along this corridor,” Johnson told the Center Square on Wednesday. “There are too many cars. We don’t have the capacity now, and we’re certainly not going to have the capacity moving forward.”
Johnson says Wis-DOT’s own numbers show a spike in crashes along the 3.5 miles between the Zoo and Marquette interchanges.
There continues to be, however, strong opposition.
“You’ve got environmental concerns, which have been significantly addressed. You’ve got social justice concerns, which again have significantly addressed. And then you have people who are just anti-freeway,” Johnson explained.
You also have the Milwaukee County Board.
County commissioners are set to meet Thursday to vote on a resolution that pushes for a “Fix in Six” plan that would replace the current six lanes of I-94 with a new set of six lanes.
“Six lanes are cheaper by 3-6%,” Jonson added. “I know we’re talking about billions of dollars, and I can’t even comprehend what that is. But that is not significant to say six lanes is a cheaper alternative.”
Wis-DOT has estimated the cost for the eight lane expansion at $1.2 billion. But no one is saying just how much Wisconsin’s share of that cost would be.
Expansion supporters say it’s key to get money for the project included in the next three state budgets.
Johnson said Gov. Evers has made the expansion a priority, mainly from a job-creation standpoint. But he;s facing new opposition.
“I know that a lot of activists are going after the governor right now,” Johnson said. “I hope he remains vigilant.”
Then there are Republican lawmakers who will write the next state budget. Johnson said three top supporters of the plan, Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, Sen. Dale Kooyenga, R-Brookfield, and Rep. Joe Sanfilippo all retired from the legislature.
Johnson said “we believe there is support” in the Assembly and Senate.
Wis-DOT will close its public comment period next month, following two public meetings this week.
Then there is the budget process next spring. And finally, Johnson said, they are expecting a Record of Decision next fall. After that, she said they hope to move toward actually building the new lanes sometime in 2026.
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