MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Ditching plans for a double-decker, on Tuesday, February 17th, Wisconsin Department of Transportation Secretary Mark Gottlieb unveiled the preferred alternative for the I-94 East-West Corridor reconstruction.
Following three years of study, five public involvement meetings, two public hearings and countless other meetings, Gottlieb has revealed the recommendation for reconstructing the I-94 East/West Corridor between 16th Street and 70th Street.
"We're obviously here regarding the future of the I-94 East/West Corridor," Gottlieb said.
The corridor was built in the late 1950s. Few would disagree that it’s time for a major makeover. On Tuesday, officials indicated they prefer an option which offers four lanes in each direction. They say no graves at Wood National Cemetery would be disrupted -- and the speed limit would remain unchanged. This "at-grade" option would cost $180 million less than the double-decker option.
"In the West segment, we've selected the 'at-grade' alternative in the cemetery area as the preferred alternative because it best balances the traffic and safety needs with our desire to protect community and cultural resources," Gottlieb said.
WisDOT's decision means the double-decker option will not happen, and it also means access to the interstate at Hawley Road would be more limited than with the current configuration.
"We're only gonna have the ramps -- the westbound entrance ramp, and the eastbound exit ramp, and that`s because of the close proximity to the cemeteries," WisDOT Southeast Region Project Development Supervisor Jason Lynch said.
The decision to eliminate partial access at Hawley Road is something West Allis Mayor Dan Devine says he's disappointed with.
Lynch says the preferred alternative also means the quarter-mile stretch between Mitchell Boulevard and Hawley Road would feature lanes measuring 11 feet in width, rather than the typical 12 feet.
"It would be something very similar to what we have on westbound, from the Marquette Interchange out to 35th Street currently. Those are 11-foot lanes," Lynch said.
Lynch says the preferred plan would have an impact on snow events and emergency responses to crashes, but Gottlieb says this plan will help to alleviate congestion and improve travel time reliability for the up to 160,000 vehicles passing through each day.
"This is a billion-dollar boondoggle," Peter Skopec with the Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group, or WISPIRG said.
Skopec says any freeway expansion plan for this stretch of roadway is unnecessary.
"Traffic along this corridor has been declining over the last decade or more. In addition, it's something that the community is very opposed to," Skopec said.
WisDOT leaders say at an estimated cost of $850 million, the "at-grade" option would be $180 million cheaper than the double-decker option.
The project needs final approval from the state. Once construction begins, it would take three to four years to complete.
The Department of Transportation hopes to have a plan and funding in place so that construction can begin by 2019.
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