Fight on for improvements to I-94 between Marquette, Zoo interchanges

April 5, 2017

WISN – The governor is pulling millions of dollars to improve the stretch of Interstate 94 between the Marquette and Zoo interchanges from his new budget, but local business leaders are teaming up to say they want it back.

Billions of dollars were poured into the Marquette Interchange, and billions of dollars continue to fund the Zoo Interchange work, but the stretch of Interstate 94 in between isn’t getting a lot of attention, which is creating traffic nightmares during rush hour.

“The highway, though, is more than 50 years old and carries 30,000 cars more per day than originally intended,” said Tracy Johnson of the Commercial Association of Realtors Wisconsin

The Department of Transportation said on the stretch, drivers are two to three times more likely to get in a crash, and business leaders said it’s a huge driver of the economy

Upgrades to redo ramps and widen lanes were supposed to start in 2021, but then Gov. Scott Walker dropped money for the Interstate 94 East-West Corridor in his 2017-2019 budget.

“Right now, leaders in the city of Milwaukee have consistently opposed an expansion that would widen the I-94 corridor,” Gov. Scott Walker said. “I think for us to move forward on anything, we want to see folks here in the city, be on the same page.”

A new coalition made up of Milwaukee and Waukesha business leaders are teaming up to get the money back.

“You cannot have a state that’s open for business if you have a road closed sign on the I-94 corridor. We need to address this in this budget,” said Steve Baas of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce. 

An estimate for the necessary improvements could cost about $31 million.

The coalition is still exploring where that money would come from, possibly registration fees, and $20 million has already been spent on engineering studies.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos released a statement saying essential projects can’t be overlooked in the budget.

“New projects shouldn’t begin in one region at the expense of the rest of southeast Wisconsin, and the delays on the I-94 N-S in Racine County have continued for far too long. We will not move forward on the East-West project unless the North-South is on track. Our state can’t afford to ignore a major section of our interstate system,” Vos said.