New options considered for rebuild of I-94 E-W corridor

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) is gearing up for a massive construction project that could tie up traffic along a busy stretch. But while engineers are designing the details, Milwaukee's mayor is weighing in.

"The roadway surface underneath needs to be rebuilt, we can't just do any resurfacing projects anymore. We're at the point where we do need to rebuild that portion of the freeway system," said Michael Pyritz of WisDOT.

The state is conducting a study -- and considering several ideas to rebuild a stretch of I-94 corridor between downtown Milwaukee and the Zoo Interchange. One of the ideas on the table -- double decking. WisDOT officials believe it is a safe and efficient option.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett argues there's another way -- dropping the speed limit from 50 to 45 miles per hour and adding an extra lane in each direction.

"You can get the four lanes that are desired by the state, in a much smaller footprint that is not going to disrupt cemeteries or businesses or homes in that residential neighborhood," said Barrett.

"There will be no impacts on the graves in those cemeteries, so we're dealing with a very narrow footprint to be operating in and rebuilding the freeway system," said Pyritz.

Mayor Barrett's comments came in an interview with Wisconsin Eye.

"Right now, the crisis we have in Wisconsin is the local roads, and you can go to any local community in this state, and people will tell you what I'm talking about, it's the potholes, it's the ice heaves, it's the wear-and-tear that is occurring on state roads," said Barrett.

Barrett said his idea would save millions of dollars -- and those savings could go to fixing local roads in desperate need of repair after a rough winter.

In the most recent budget, Wisconsin borrowed $993 million for the transportation fund. Mayor Barrett says that's an unsustainable situation.

"They're spending like drunken sailors, there's no question about that.  It's this borrow-and-spend mentality, and I think people in this state are going to wake up and say nobody’s making any difficult decisions," said Barrett.

The state is still in the planning stages. Officials expect to hold another public information session in late spring or early summer.