As many of you living in and around Milwaukee know, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation is suggesting that the stretch of I-94 from 19th Street to 70th Street be rebuilt and expanded to four lanes. Because of space restrictions at the Miller Park interchanges and the veteran’s cemetery just west of there, DOT would like to build a double deck expressway…with one deck running in each direction. Besides the exorbitant costs involved, the local residents rightly complain that road noise in their neighborhood will be magnified as traffic is raised to their level. And like the streetcar this solution has it’s proponents and opponents…but they haven’t gotten as vociferous yet as the freeway isn’t as far along in development yet.
But let me explain something to you! LOL!
In the early 1970s when I was a student at first UW-Waukesha and later UW-Milwaukee, I enjoyed visiting the Art Institute of Chicago a few times a year. I travelled the toll way to the Edens expressway to the Loop. Pretty nifty! At that time the Edens was a three lane in each direction expressway and it being Chicago got backed up a bit from time to time. But I loved feeling grown up and navigating the big city and didn’t think too much about it…and I also enjoyed that small town superiority of not living with that day in day out.
Now we are solidly into the 21st Century and I still enjoy travelling to Chicago to visit the Art Institute and other attractions. And unless I am visiting something else on the way that is off the track, I travel the toll road to the Edens to the Loop…and it’s still just three lanes…and sometimes being the big city of Chicago it gets backed up. But guess what? It doesn’t seem anymore congested than it did 40 years ago.
Now there are probably a lot of reasons that the Edens can still function at three lanes…one of them being the Metra and other commuter trains and the elevated trains. And maybe they do a better job of selling car pooling. It certainly isn’t because of a change in population or car ownership…I am guessing that has stayed pretty much the same.
But what I am getting at here is I-94 can probably get along pretty well if it is rebuilt at grade and the ramps are improved and run off and run on lanes are improved or implemented where there is room. And yes I know that stretch can be a pain and it gets backed up at times…because I drive it everyday to and from work…but it is workable. It doesn’t need four lanes, it doesn’t need to look like an 8 mile long aircraft carrier flight deck…it just needs to be engineered to work better.
And maybe we should really seriously start to think about a parallel light rail system from Waukesha County to downtown.