Freeway Fight: Scott Walker Wants to Drag Milwaukee Back to 1956

The mayor and residents of Milwaukee are fighting a massive urban highway project backed by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.

This site, in Milwaukee's Story Hill neighborhood, is where the state is proposing a two-level freeway. Photo: Urban Milwaukee
This site, in Milwaukee’s Story Hill neighborhood, is where Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker wants a two-level freeway. Photo: Urban Milwaukee

Citing traffic congestion, the state is forging ahead with a $1.2 billion plan to expand Interstate 94. One design under consideration would stack freeway lanes on top of freeway lanes, double-decker style. The state says such a design is necessary to avoid moving veterans’ graves in cemeteries near the site.

Residents of Milwaukee staged protests against the state’s plans for Interstate 94 this week, saying the money would be better spent on transit and local roads. Yesterday, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel he opposes the double-decker design, saying it would hurt neighborhoods, and vowed to try to stop it.

“Not only will this option cost exorbitant sums of money, it will have a negative impact on property values and disrupt the lives of Story Hill neighborhood residents,” Barrett said in a statement. “I continue to oppose the double deck option and will continue to pursue all options to prevent its construction.”

Despite his claims of fiscal conservatism, Walker has pursued a campaign of wildly expensive highway widenings in his almost four-year tenure. He said forgoing the highway expansion would cost jobs.

“The bottom line is I said we’re looking at all possible options,” Walker said. “The only one I have definitively taken off the table is we’re not moving graves for that site. I think it’s imperative we go forward.”

One alternative to the double-decker design is adding a lane in the highway’s shoulders and narrowing the existing lanes. But state officials say that wouldn’t add enough capacity for one of the slowest growing metro areas in the United States.

7 thoughts on Freeway Fight: Scott Walker Wants to Drag Milwaukee Back to 1956

  1. Holland stopped highway sprawl with a month long sit-down protest in the 1970′. Look at the great result. Might consider a similar 1970’s tactic if needed.

  2. Governor Walker is willing to change the design and add multiple millions in cost to an unnecessary and unwanted highway project because of a graveyard, but the wants of the actual living people there aren’t enough to do so.
    What do you call this?

  3. $800 million, fully funded high-performance railway with relatively low operating costs connecting Chicago to the majority of the population of Wisconsin and bringing in hundreds of jobs? Unacceptable. It’s too expensive! It will destroy the way of life! Nobody will ride it (based on assumptions and not data)! $1.2 billion double-decker freeway that will split urban neighborhoods, increase pollution, and will likely increase traffic congestion on surface streets? Sure, go for it.

  4. Not sure if this is part of the same project as the Zoo Interchange (I’m from the thriving side of the St. Croix/Mississippi Rivers so I’m not familiar with Milwaukee). But I calculated out the cost of the Zoo Interchange that Scott Walker wants so much. It costs over $6,000 for every single public employee in the state of Wisconsin. If we’re going to start being fiscally responsible, the first place to cut is car sewer expansion.

  5. $1.2 billion to reduce congestion during peak rush hour times in 2035 by 4 minutes. At the same time, Walker will not restore $10 million in transit cuts that would link hundreds of inner city residents to jobs in the suburbs. Come up with your own term to describe that policy – I have one.

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