Walker proposal on Zoo Interchange draws mixed reactions from lawmakers

    Gov. Scott Walker’s vow to move up the Zoo Interchange reconstruction ahead of the expansion of the I-94 corridor between Kenosha County and Milwaukee has drawn praise and apprehension from legislators.
    During his State of the State speech Tuesday, Walker said he challenged the Department of Transportation to find new ways to reconstruct the Zoo Interchange in southeastern Wisconsin and reported officials have come through with a plan to start the project ahead of schedule and spend $600 million less than previous cost estimates.
    However, fast-tracking the project means pushing back by five years reconstruction of the busy north-south I-94 corridor.
    Rep. Robin Vos, the Assembly co-chair of the powerful Joint Finance Committee, was not enthusiastic about the plan. The I-94 project runs through his district.
    "It’s not something that I think is a fantastic idea," the Racine legislator said. "There was a reason that the DOT came forward and said that they thought the north-south was a higher priority. I understand that because of all the fund raids and all the phony accounting tricks that were done in the transportation fund we don’t have enough money for everything. And I just hope we are doing it because the need is there, not just because we can make a change in the decision."
    However, a vocal critic of Walker greeted the news warmly.
    "Of course from the Milwaukee area and having to use the Zoo Interchange, I’m excited any time we’re going to do something in the Milwaukee area," said Sen. Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee. "But I think in the long run I want to make sure we’re balancing what we’re doing to make sure we’re making the right choices."
    State Rep. Jeff Stone, R-Greendale, who is a candidate to succeed Walker as Milwaukee County executive, applauded the proposal to move the Zoo Interchange up in priority.
    “This interchange is so very crucial to the economic health of the region and the State. The number of jobs that are within a two mile radius of this interchange is near 90,000. Add to that that value of the goods and services that travel this roadway and you have a wide ranging impact on our economy,” Stone said. “Beyond the economic impact there are safety and cost impact concerns that will not be addressed until the interchange is completely rebuilt. This is the busiest interchange in the State serving 350,000 people a day. We need to get this project moving!”

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