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I-94 expansion in Milwaukee receives federal approval

Environment and civil rights groups opposed $1.2B plan to widen interstate on city's west side

I-94 East-West Freeway
Traffic moves along the I-94 East-West Freeway. Chuck Quirmbach/WPR

A plan to widen Interstate 94 in Milwaukee has received federal approval.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation announced Friday that the plan received an OK from the Federal Highway Administration. The state DOT will now move on to final design and construction. 

The project will widen I-94 from six to eight lanes along a 3.5 mile stretch between 16th and 70th streets on the city’s west side. Along with adding lanes, the project includes road modifications that will eliminate left-hand exit and entrance ramps and “right-sizing” the Stadium Interchange. 

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Advocates, including  labor groups, have said the construction project will create up to 10,000 jobs.

But environmental and civil rights groups have fought the plan. They say it will worsen climate change and pollution and have a disproportionate impact on Black and Latino residents who live along the corridor.

In Januar,y the Federal Highway Administration said it would lead a civil rights investigation into the project. The Sierra Club’s Wisconsin chapter issued a statement calling the Friday’s approval “extremely disappointing.”

“Expanding this segment of highway will increase greenhouse gas emissions, cost taxpayers more than a billion dollars, increase air and water pollution especially for neighboring communities, and will almost certainly make congestion worse and car crashes deadlier,” said Cass Steiner, campaign coordinator for the state Sierra Club.

The state DOT wants to begin construction in late 2025. The project is expected to cost $1.2 billion.

In announcing the federal approval, the state DOT stated it will continue to “engage community members and stakeholders throughout this project” and stated planning for a community meeting is underway.