Lawsuit settled: DOT to ease congestion during Zoo Interchange construction

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) on Monday, May 19th announced that an agreement has been reached to settle a lawsuit related to the reconstruction of the Zoo Interchange in Milwaukee County.

“We are pleased to have reached an agreement,” said WisDOT Secretary Mark Gottlieb. “The settlement includes transit services that will alleviate traffic congestion during construction. The routes will support the department’s Traffic Management Plan for the project, facilitating our commitment to minimize the impacts of construction on travelers, residents and businesses.”

Gottlieb said final signatures are pending. Under the terms, the state will:

    The terms of the settlement were negotiated in court-sponsored mediation. The suit was filed in 2012 by Black Health Coalition of Wisconsin and the Milwaukee Inner-city Congregations Allied for Hope.

    Improvements to the Zoo Interchange arterials are already underway through 2014 so that those routes will be able to efficiently handle diverted and detoured traffic once the core interchange reconstruction begins.

    The interchange reconstruction is scheduled to take place from 2015 through 2017. The north leg of the interchange (US 45) is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2018.

    More information on the Zoo Interchange project is available on the WisDOT website at, on Facebook at and  Twitter at


    On Tuesday, May 20th, Milwaukee County Board's Transportation, Public Works and Transit Committee authorized the proposed temporary express route to extend existing transit services from Milwaukee County to Waukesha County and back -- to increase access to areas of employment during the Zoo Interchange reconstruction and expansion project.

    In August 2012, the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin and Midwest Environmental Advocates filed a lawsuit against state and federal transportation agencies on behalf of Milwaukee Inner City Congregations Allied for Hope (MICAH) and the Black Health Coalition of Wisconsin (BHC) for not addressing the needs of persons who rely on transit during the time of the Zoo Interchange project.

    Proposed Route 279 is part of a negotiated settlement between the groups and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.

    "As we talk about the importance of people getting to work, we cannot overstate the need for adequate transit services," Board Chairwoman Marina Dimitrijevic said. "While only temporary, additional routes are imperative to mitigate congestion during the Zoo Interchange project, as well as ensure people can still get to and from work.  It is unfortunate the Wisconsin Department of Transportation had to be sued to provide adequate funding for transit.  Nonetheless, we appreciate the efforts of MICAH, the Black Health Coalition, ACLU and the Midwest Environmental Advocates."

    The proposed settlement will fund approximately $2.875 million annually from 2014 to 2018 for purposes of traffic mitigation in the form of transit route support in the area of the Zoo Interchange.

    There will also be additional funding available for marketing/outreach efforts.

    Contracts for the specific routes are still being worked out.

    "Transit is an important and vital service for employees and employers.  Getting people to work and back home to their families in a timely manner through mass transit is a win for everyone," Transportation, Public Works and Transit Chairman Michael Mayo, Sr. said. "Thanks to the plaintiffs, the workers of Milwaukee County will have an increase in access to affordable and timely transportation to work, employers will be able to access additional employees from Milwaukee County and there will be a reduction in travel times for those able to catch the new route."