Milwaukee, WI – The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) is undertaking a massive new project to redesign and update the crumbling freeway infrastructure in the Milwaukee area. The agency says the project will take roughly four years and they hope to start in 2025. According to the DOT, “The project is underway with the goal to modernize the stretch of I-94 between 70th and 16th streets to improve safety, replace aging infrastructure (originally constructed in the 1960s) and reduce congestion.”
Over the past 50 years, WisDOT has maintained and rehabilitated the ramps, bridges, pavements and other structures. Now, the corridor is nearing the end of its life cycle. The transportation agency is now taking the steps to determine how the corridor will be rebuilt to ensure it serves the economy of southeastern Wisconsin for decades to come.
Traffic from around the region, state and nation passes through this corridor. Major institutions and tourist attractions are in close proximity: the Veterans Administration complex, American Family Field, Molson Coors Brewery, and Menomonee Valley businesses such as the Potawatomi Casino.
The project initially started in 2012 but plans were halted in 2017. The plan resurfaced this year. Interstate corridor projects have long been the subject of much scrutiny in major American cities, due to the fact that they tend to cut through low-income neighborhoods and in some cases, have a hand in uneven redistricting of city maps.
Milwaukeeans need only look back at Bronzeville, a once thriving neighborhood that was one of the main reasons Milwaukee was one of the top five cities in the United States for Black people to thrive. Many homes were torn down, displacing residents so the I-43 could be built, and the city has not forgotten it.
WisDOT representative Timothy E. Anhueser is looking to make sure history does not repeat itself.
“Since the project will be going through Milwaukee districts of color, we are looking to make sure that the voices from the residents, businesses and community organizations are heard,” Anheuser said.
The DOT has partnered with local organizations, like the United Community Center (UCC) and VIA, two pillars in Milwaukee’s South Side nonprofit community that have a wide reach in terms of communicating with people. North side organizations are also involved, and will be part of “town hall” style meetings, virtual and otherwise until pandemic restrictions are lifted.
UCC representative Al Castro is looking to make press releases for these meetings in Spanish available, so Spanish-speaking residents can also make their voices heard.
“There is a long history with corridor projects, and they can sometimes have negative connotations, but it is through these expansions that resources are safely and adequately delivered to our communities,” Castro said.
Interviews with members of the community will also be conducted, so surveys and polls can hopefully show a higher approval rating.