Opinion: Analysis confirms 8-lane expansion is the most carbon-emitting option for I-94 in Milwaukee

By Cheryl Nenn, Terry Wiggins, Cassie Steiner

December 21, 2023

Environmental leaders voice their concern over expanding I-94 to 8 lanes.

In November, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WISDOT) released its draft Greenhouse Gas Analysis for the I-94 project in Milwaukee. This analysis clearly shows that the 8-lane alternatives and the alternatives with large interchanges are likely to result in more carbon emissions than the 6-lane alternatives with the Diverging Diamond Interchanges – by as much as 1,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions.

The draft greenhouse gas analysis likely also underestimated the difference between the alternatives because it failed to consider new induced traffic due to an expansion of lanes and did not consider transportation alternatives like transit, walking or biking – all of which are lower carbon alternatives. WisDOT’s earlier environmental analysis already found that the 8-lane versions will lead to more highway accident deaths and more unhealthy air pollution than the 6-lane alternatives.

The Federal Highway Administration requires state Departments of Transportation to prepare plans for greenhouse gas emission reductions for highways. We hope that WISDOT makes and then follows an ambitious emission reduction plan.

The Greenhouse Gas Analysis also attempts to discount environmental justice and civil rights concerns from highway expansion by noting that the minority proportion of the population within 1000 feet of the project corridor is similar to that of Milwaukee County as a whole. This completely ignores how segregated the state and the region are. This project is located in the most heavily racially segregated metropolitan region in the country. This stretch of the highway corridor has a larger proportion of Black and Hispanic residents than can be found in any other community in the region.

What does all of this mean? It’s simple – expanding I-94 to 8 lanes with a large interchange is the most harmful option that WISDOT has put forth for the 3-mile corridor. Environmental and civil rights advocates have been saying this for years.

Wisconsin’s unsound transportation priorities should have been fixed decades ago. But now is the next best time. We are looking to the Evers Administration, Secretary Thompson, WISDOT as a whole, and the Federal Highway Administration to make the right choice for our state, for racial justice, and for our climate: fix at six lanes and avoid an overbuilt interchange.

You can show your support by requesting a yard sign or signing up to learn more at fixatsix.org. Better yet, contact WISDOT and let them know you support Fix at Six. Here’s the link to their public input form for I-94:

https://2.selectsurvey.net/WisDot/TakeSurvey.aspx?PageNumber=1&SurveyID=n2LI3783#

Authors

  • Cheryl Nenn

    Cheryl Nenn has been the Riverkeeper for Milwaukee Riverkeeper for over 20 years. She directs the Citizen-Based Water Quality Monitoring Program in the Milwaukee River Basin, several advanced monitoring projects (identifying sources of human bacteria, phosphorus, chloride, and emerging contaminants), the Milwaukee Urban Water Trail Project, and several stream restoration projects in the Milwaukee River Basin. As the Milwaukee Riverkeeper, Cheryl patrols local waterways, identifies problems in the Milwaukee River Basin, responds to citizen concerns, reviews permits, and helps find collaborative solutions to problems affecting local rivers.

  • Terry Wiggins

    Terry Wiggins is a Milwaukee resident, and cares about the future of our city and of the world and all of existence in it. She is involved in the Earth Justice ministry of the First Unitarian Society of Milwaukee, the 350 Milwaukee Steering Committee, the Coalition on Lead Emergency (COLE) and its Education Committee, and is co-chair of the St. Rita Square Civic Engagement Committee. She has lived on the West and East Coasts of the country before moving to the Pacific Northwest and then the Midwest.

  • Cassie Steiner

    Cassie Steiner is the Senior Campaign Coordinator for the Sierra Club - Wisconsin Chapter. They work with volunteers and concerned residents on issue campaigns including public lands access, equitable transportation and the beyond coal campaign, and they help members of the public in engaging in decision-making processes and grassroots activism.

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