Opinion: Proposed I-94 Expansion a 'Fiasco' for Milwaukee

An opinion piece published by Urban Milwaukee argues against a proposed expansion of three miles of Interstate 94 in Milwaukee.

2 minute read

November 22, 2020, 7:00 AM PST

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

I-94 North-South Project

I-94 expansion rendering, created in 2015. / WisDOT via Urban Milwaukee

A pointed opinion piece calls on Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers to reject a proposal to widen three miles of Interstate 94 where it travels East and West through the city of Milwaukee.

The proposed expansion is a "fiasco," write Cassie Steiner (Sierra Club Wisconsin), Gregg May (1000 Friends of Wisconsin), Megan Severson (Wisconsin Environment), Lester Williams (MICAH), and Cheryl Nenn (Milwaukee Riverkeeper) for Urban Milwaukee—especially in context of the discussions about racial disparities and climate change that have occurred during this year of pandemic and presidential election.

Expanding three miles of I-94 E/W in Milwaukee is a public health nightmare. Adding lanes to highways increases the number of cars on the road, worsening air pollution. Earlier this year, a Harvard study found that air pollution is linked with higher COVID-19 death rates. Additionally, Black US residents are experiencing a disproportionate impact from the virus, with double the death rate as white residents. Adding air pollution to neighborhoods in Milwaukee, which has some of the greatest racial disparities in the country, is unacceptable. Adding lanes and more pavement also increases polluted runoff and exacerbates flooding of local streams.

The I-94 expansion project is estimated to cost $1 billion, at a time when the state estimates a $2 billion budget shortfall. According to the opinion piece, that money would be better spent repairing existing roads, improving public transit, and re-establishing funding for bike and pedestrian infrastructure.

The opinion piece tackles the rationale behind the project point by point, finding shaky reasoning and misrepresentation of facts about the state of transportation in the city, and the need for more car-centric, climate change-causing projects.

Previous Planetizen coverage of the I-94 expansion project noted the origins of the project in the previous gubernatorial administration of Scott Walker, a Republican. The assumption that Walker's successor, a Democrat, would end the project, has so far proven unfounded.

  • New Governor, Same Billion Dollar Freeway Expansion Plan (July 2020)
  • I-94 to Expand Out (Not Up) in Milwaukee (February 2015)
  • The Implications of Southeast Wisconsin's $7 Billion in Freeway Projects (July 2015)
  • Civil Right Groups, Environmentalists Team Up to Block Milwaukee Highway Expansion (March 2017)
  • Confronting Wisconsin's $1.1 Billion Highway Widening Proposal (October 2017)

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