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Confronting Wisconsin's $1.1 Billion Highway Widening Proposal

A coalition of environmentalists, civil rights activists, and other community interests teamed up to successfully oppose a Milwaukee highway widening proposal. In an interview, one of the leading lawyers discusses his work.
October 23, 2017, 9am PDT | Philip Rojc | @PhilipRojc
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Tom Biegalski

Throughout the past year, a coalition of activists organized against a widening proposal for the I-94 through Milwaukee. The state recently abandoned the project. Here, Angie Schmitt interviews Dennis Grzezinski, an environmental attorney who led the charge. "In his most recent win, representing the Milwaukee chapters of the NAACP and the Sierra Club, Grzezinski took Wisconsin DOT to federal court over a $1.1 billion urban highway widening project."

According to Grzezinski, the money that's been poured into highway widening can exacerbate social problems like segregation by race and income. Billions of dollars for more highways, he says, allow "richer people to flee in the evening — concentrating poverty and social problems."

Grzezinski discusses how interest groups can form common cause against projects they oppose, bettering their chances in court. "It's really, really important to be involved as early in the project as possible, following the initial notice that they're looking at a project. It's really important to weigh in with comments. I found it really important to develop coalitions of organizations — to get the whole range of interested community players involved, in attending public hearings and public minutes."

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Published on Thursday, October 12, 2017 in Streetsblog USA
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