Waukesha Freeman – Surrounded by products made by southeastern Wisconsin companies that rely on Interstate 94 to transport their goods, members of a newly formed coalition called on Wisconsin’s administration to prioritize maintenance and improvements of the Interstate 94 East-West corridor.
Jeff Hoffman, who sits on the Waukesha County Business Alliance’s policy board, shared his thoughts as part of the I-94 East-West Econ Connect coalition press conference Wednesday at State Fair Park and later in an interview with The Freeman.
As a principal with Cushman & Wakefield|Boerke, Hoffman said he hears from people in the real estate industry who believe wellmaintained infrastructure is key to luring buyers, as well as operating a successful business.
While full reconstruction and modernization of the East- We s t Corridor has been on the state’s agenda and work had been likely to start in February 2017, funding for the work was cut from Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed 2017-19 budget. The I-94 eastwest project from 16th to 70th streets in Milwaukee County was planned to cost about $1.1 billion.
“For us at the state level, we want to make sure that everyone is on the same page. Right now, leaders in the city of Milwaukee have consistently opposed an expansion that would widen the I-94 corridor … I think for us to move forward on anything we want to see folks here in the city be on the same page,” Walker said in a statement.
The coalition contends this is detrimental to the economic success of not only southeastern Wisconsin, but the whole state.
The I-94 East-West Corridor runs for 3.5 miles between 16th and 70th streets, connecting Milwaukee and Waukesha counties to locations beyond their borders. About 140,000 to 160,000 vehicles travel the I-94 East-West Corridor each day, according to the coalition.
Hoffman contends that should the project be put on hold, the state’s investment of about $20 million and four years’ worth of work to plan the project and get federal approvals for it would be lost.
“The Alliance believes it is necessary and there is robust debate that needs to happen on how we fund future transportation and infrastructure projects,” Hoffman said on Wednesday.
The corridor is also the way many workers get to and from their jobs, whether they live in Milwaukee County and travel west or vice-versa. As such, Hoffman said the corridor is a main hub of commerce in Wisconsin and it allows employers in Waukesha County to be competitive if it’s maintained.
“From the standpoint of Waukesha County, there are a lot of our growing employers who operate on a regional and national basis,” he said.
Tracy Johnson, president and CEO of coalition member Commercial Association of Realtors Wisconsin, also spoke during the press conference Wednesday.
She believes that if the repairs and improvement to the I-94 project do not occur, it will have a “cascading effect” on the state’s economy.
“The East-West Corridor serves as the gateway for the products, jobs, destinations and health care and educational institutions that make our region vibrant and strong. While we applaud efforts by the state to eliminate waste and inefficiency, stalling this project now would be a major roadblock to Wisconsin’s business, job and economic growth,” she said in a statement.
Johnson would like discussion of the project at the state level and for a solution to be found.
“To keep kicking it down the road we believe is a mistake and will end up costing money,” she said.
Other members of the I-94 East-West Econ Connect include Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, MillerCoors, Marquette University, Palermo’s and Forest County Potawatomi.
The coalition has sent a letter to members of the Wisconsin Legislature’s Joint Committee on Finance. and has established a new website at www.I94EconConnect.com.