Planning Group Pushes Alternative To I-94 Expansion

DOT And Transportation Coalition Back Plan To Expand Highway To 4 Lanes

Chuck Quirmbach/WPR News

This week, the state Department of Transportation unveiled a preferred alternative plan for a roughly four-mile rebuild of Interstate 94, part of which passes by the Miller Park baseball stadium in Milwaukee.

The DOT dropped plans to double-deck part of the freeway, but instead is proposing to widen the road from three lanes each way to four. A coalition of groups looking at transportation options said it agrees with the state that safety improvements are needed along I-94.

But Steve Hiniker, director of the advocacy group 1,000 Friends of Wisconsin, said his group found that between 2005 and 2009, no fatal crashes were reported during peak congestion hours, and only a small percentage of other accidents causing injuries occurred. Because of that, he said additional lanes aren’t needed.

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“We should look at what DOT staff said in their safety report, which is you could address all of the safety problems equally well by making spot improvements on the existing highway, rather than adding lanes,” Hiniker said. “Now, if you do add lanes, what you’re going to do is exacerbate the situation where you have serious problems off-peak because you’ll be able to go faster. And we know that speed kills.”

That’s especially true, Hiniker said, if the driver has been drinking alcohol. He said about $400 million can be sliced off the price of the I-94 rebuild if no lanes are added.

Another 1,000 Friends staffer, Ash Anandanarayanan, said the so-called “spot improvements” could include changes like getting rid of some left-lane exits in the stadium interchange.

“That’s a problem. Left-hand interchanges, left-hand exits, right-hand exits, there’s a lot of weaving in the corridor. So what spot improvements could do is close down some of those left-hand exits and make them all right hand exits, ” said Anandanarayanan.

The spot improvements could still cost near $400 million. Representatives from 1,000 Friends said it asked the DOT for more of its crash data, but did not get substantial cooperation. The group ultimately used data from the University of Wisconsin.

​The DOT said it stands by the department’s information developed to this point and fully supports the decision to move forward with widening that section of I-94 from six to eight lanes. The DOT is now working on a final environmental impact statement for the project.