Survey shows strong support for freeway expansion plans


Southeastern Wisconsin residents who responded to a survey on the area freeway system overwhelmingly expressed support for modernization and expansion of the system.

The freeway design modifications and expansions of key corridors were supported as part of a $6.25 billion plan to rebuild the region’s interstate highways.
Results of the survey were recently released by the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission. The study related to 270 miles of freeways serving southeastern Wisconsin. Responses to the survey came from more than 15,000 households in seven counties. The 15,000 responses represented a return rate of more than 27% of the surveys sent out.
Overall, 87% responded in favor of rebuilding the freeway system to meet modern design standards.
Close to 75% of respondents called for additional lanes on the freeway system to address traffic congestion.
More than 76% supported expansions to provide eight freeway lanes on I-43 and I-94 in Milwaukee County; 74% of Milwaukee County residents supported such expansions;
Just over 72% called the 20-year traffic congestion growth to be unacceptable – congestion that would occur without freeway expansion and despite public transit expansion, controlled development and surface street improvements.
"It’s encouraging to see that residents of southeastern Wisconsin recognize the need for modernization and expansion of our freeway system," said Gov. Scott McCallum. "This project is essential in making our state a better place to live, work and visit, into the future."
Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker also expressed support for the actions. "Milwaukee County is the source of job opportunities for residents in Wisconsin. Addressing transportation issues is absolutely critical if Milwaukee plans to continue to attract and retain new industry, and be a leader in hosting cultural and civic events."
SEWRPC conducted the random survey to gauge local residents’ reactions to an ongoing study of how to reconstruct the southeast freeway system during the next 20 years. The study, commissioned by the state, examined the economic development, infrastructure, design, safety and traffic flow concerns relating to the 270-mile freeway system in Kenosha, Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Racine, Walworth, Washington and Waukesha counties.
Among SEWRPC’s preliminary alternatives is a $5.5 billion option that would reconstruct the system to meet modern design standards and address infrastructure and many safety concerns, but would not add highway capacity. A $6.25 billion option that adds capacity to 120 miles of freeway corridor would address infrastructure, design, safety and traffic flow concerns, especially to address traffic congestion projected on the system during the next 20 years.
Six of the seven southeast Wisconsin county boards already have indicated their support for SEWRPC’s recommendations. Action by the Milwaukee County Board is expected by the end of this year.
SEWRPC also conducted a public hearing process on the plans during May and June, with 310 persons providing comments on the preliminary freeway plan. Of those comments, 46 persons expressed support for the plan, 23 expressed support for a plan alternative, 19 offered comments but did not express support or opposition to the plan, and 222 specifically opposed the plan. In addition, SEWRPC received nearly 1,500 pre-printed Sierra Club cards stating general opposition to the work.

SEWRPC analyzed estimated impacts of the preliminary freeway plan on minority and low-income populations in the area and came up with the following:

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  • Minority and low-income populations are not disproportionately represented in areas close to proposed widened freeways;
  • The majority of freeway system segments proposed to be widened are not adjacent to minority populations;
  • The majority of census blocks with above-average concentration of minority populations are not located adjacent to or in proximity to the freeway system;
  • Estimated residences and businesses to be acquired under the plan are not disproportionately located in areas with above county or regional averages of minority or low-income populations;
  • Freeways system reconstruction will reduce peak-hour travel times, increasing the number of jobs accessible within 10, 20 and 30 minutes of peak travel time, affecting equally minority and non-minority populations;
  • Improved and expanded transit service called for in the regional plan would be particularly focused on areas with above-regional-average concentrations of minority and low-income populations.

    Oct. 25, 2002 Small Business Times, Milwaukee

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