A map of WISPIRG’s proposed
East-West Corridor “Rehab/Transit” alternative.
As public hearings got underway this week for the Interstate 94
East-West Corridor project in Milwaukee, one Madison consumer
group has begun pushing its own construction alternative which
seeks to enable "21st century mobility" through the area.
WISPIRG — which
claims to be an independent voice for consumers
Tuesday it is offering the alternate designed by a 25-year
transportation planner and New Jersey Department of
Transportation veteran, which includes a high-quality
This would be more in touch with people’s changing desires to
get around using non-driving modes, according to a release from
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation recently released
its draft Environmental Impact Statement, which offers four
alternatives that would see the 3.5-mile stretch of I-94 between
70th and 16th streets expand to four lanes in both directions.
"What we are offering is more of a concept," WISPIRG Director
Bruce Speight said. "We put out a range of options
— it could be
rapid transit, or it could be light rail or it could be a
phased-in option where it starts out as a fixed-route bus, but
over time it becomes more of a fixed-route light rail or
streetcar or even tram type proposal."
Dr. Mark Stout, the former assistant commissioner for
planning and development at the New Jersey DOT, said in doing
so, WISDOT is only taking "another big step forward in its drive
to widen I-94 in Milwaukee’s east-west corridor."
"They have dismissed, rather peremptorily, other options for
Milwaukee’s future," he said in a release. "I want to show that
other options are not only feasible, but in fact a better choice
for the east-west corridor."
Stout’s system proposes to link the Burleigh and 101st Street
park and rides to the downtown Milwaukee Streetcar, the
Intermodal Station, and other locations with several cross-town
connections through Miller Park.
Examining the options
Michael Pyritz, the DOT’s southeast region communication
manager, said he is aware of WISPIRG’s new option, and while the
department is moving forward with its examination of the
corridor, it is still looking for public input.
He said the roadway, as it currently stands, is failing on
both safety and efficiency, and in order to add capacity, an
additional lane of traffic in both directions is necessary.
To do that, the DOT has looked at a pair of alternatives for
both the east and west legs of the highway.
On the east side, the department has put forth on- and
off-alignment alternatives —
the on-alignment plan would closely follow the footprint of the
roadway as it exists, said Pyritz, while the off-alignment
option would take some different angles.
But both alternatives bring along some difficulties.
"The on-alignment ... also brings along all the challenges," Pyritz
said, "like the crazy 27th Street on- and off-ramp area, which
is very hazardous (and) the area around 35th Street being very
congested and flowing poorly into the stadium interchange
The off-alignment option, on the other hand, would cost more,
require more structures to be built and would require a complete
reconstruction of the 27th Street interchange.
On the west side, the DOT has proposed an at-grade
alternative, where a fourth lane would be added in each
direction, and a double-deck option where four lanes heading one
way would be built up above the four lanes in the opposite
Speight said the department of transportation has only
offered one real option —
expanding the highways —
with multiple ways of doing it, and has failed to examine any
"It is an outrage," he said. "It is their job to actually
assess all the alternatives and come up with the best."
Resurface or rebuild?
According to the DEIS, the at-grade option would cost
$125 million, while the double-deck alternate would be
between $295 and
$345 million. Both east leg options are expected to cost
above $700 million, with a price tag for the entire project
estimated between $825 million and $1.2 billion.
Speight didn’t offer concrete numbers, but said similar
projects to what he has proposed can cost far less.
WISPIRG claimed the environmental impact statement failed to
consider simply repairing the highway without expansion, but
Pyritz said the roadway has already been resurfaced recently,
and the Federal Highway Administration is not allowing any more
cosmetic patch-ups in lieu of a long-term fix.
"The roadway underneath and the structures themselves are at
the end of their life usefulness," he said. "We have to go and
rebuild, it is just a matter of how we go in and get that
Pyritz said his department is estimating the construction
could begin by 2019. Public meetings on the project were held
Contact Matt Masterson