Drexel Ave. bridge opens, interchange to open next week

OAK CREEK -- The new Drexel Avenue bridge opened to traffic on Tuesday, November 20th. The new interchange ramps are anticipated to be open next week, weather permitting.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation held a ribbon cutting for the opening at 1 p.m. Tuesday. The Drexel Ave. interchange is the first new one in Milwaukee County since the 1970s.

A lot of people, including the communities of Oak Creek and Franklin, had to buy into this project -- and a lot of partnerships had to form on all levels of government. But that's done now -- and the interchange is ready to go.

Laurie Wenzel drove over the Drexel Ave. bridge for the first time on Tuesday. "I'm very happy about it. I'm going to probably use it to go to work because I live off Drexel," said Wenzel.

Oak Creek Mayor Steve Scaffidi says the interchange helps connect motorists to the interstate; it connects communities and opens up large development sites. He says that could mean more businesses and more jobs.

"This now is an immediate connection. So those parcels become a lot more valuable to potential retail customers, manufacturers possibly and even office buildings. Now they have an easy way for their employees to get in and out," said Scaffidi.

Ground was broken for the new interchange in May 2012. The new interchange will allow drivers to get onto and off of the interstate via Drexel Avenue, instead of taking Rawson Avenue or Ryan Road. 

The Drexel Interchange project cost around $10.7 million. The state paid for half of that cost.  The rest came from the city of Oak Creek and Northwestern Mutual, which has its headquarters just west of the interchange in Franklin.