Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Story Hill Neighborhood Files Strong Opposition To Wider, Elevated I-94 Lanes

This is how you tell WisDOT (some background, here) to rebuild a highway in its current footprint:

August 15, 2013

Mr. Jason Lynch
WisDOT SE Transportation Region P.O. Box 798
Waukesha, WI 53187-0798

Dear Mr. Lynch:

The Story Hill Neighborhoood Association (SHNA) appreciated the opportunity to offer input on the latest series of options and alternatives presented by the State of Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s (WisDOT) I-94 East-West Freeway Corridor Study from 70th Street to 25th Street. 

We know that many Story Hill neighbors took the time to attend the meetings on July 30th and 31st to again offer their ideas and suggestions - both what they’d like to see in a new freeway, and possibly more importantly, what they do not want to see.

The SHNA also has studied the next set of design options for this corridor, and we wish to go on record with our position on these alternatives.

Story Hill neighborhood specific:

  •   Once again, we repeat in the strongest terms possible – The I-94 freeway corridor must be designed and rebuilt within the existing footprint to maintain and preserve the quality of life and housing stock in our neighborhood. We continue to oppose freeway lane expansion in either direction. This means no cutting into Bluff Park north of the freeway, and no removal of homes.

  •   Double-deck option “all up” vs. Eight lanes across at grade level – Again, we are adamantly opposed to any double decking of lanes where the top level/deck is built “all up” – 25-40 feet in the air. The video and still photo simulations provided at the meetings show 4-6 lanes of traffic 25-40 feet up in the air running parallel to and at the same height as Story Parkway, bringing added air, noise and light pollution into our neighborhood, and threatens the views from Bluff Park.

    The eight lanes across at grade level option also is not an attractive alternative, given our opposition to freeway corridor expansion. Plus, losing Hawley Road as an access point after giving up General Mitchell Boulevard causes some concerns, not only for Story Hill neighbors but for the continued viability of the businesses on Blue Mound Rd, the Hunger Task Force headquarters, and the City of West Allis.

    SHNA again asks WisDOT to revisit the tunnel option for this stretch of freeway to ensure that all possible options and ideas have been thoroughly vetted. We have not seen any video or photo simulations of what a tunnel might look like, but the idea that westbound lanes would travel underground with eastbound lanes on top at grade level has merit.
However, if the “all-up” double deck and the eight lanes at grade are our only options, the SHNA reluctantly prefers the eight lanes at grade option. The double deck “all up” scenario is totally unacceptable as it would have horrible consequences for neighbors’ property values and quality of life. Possible sound barriers along Bluff Park also are unacceptable to neighbors.
  •   New 46th Street in the Stadium Interchange – In our June 2013 letter, SHNA supported eliminating the General Mitchell Boulevard on/off ramp if an alternative access ramp would be created near our neighborhood. However, the 46th St. plan WisDOT presented in July leaves much to be desired. The roadway runs alongside a Milwaukee Brewers parking lot, and does not connect well to the neighborhood. 

    One option has the road going back eastward to 44th St. and then zigging and zagging to Blue Mound Rd. Another option is to have the roadway head westbound across the top of the Brewers parking lot emptying onto Story Parkway. While we still support a new 46th St. access point in theory, both these options need further work and review before SHNA can support such a street creation.

  •   Stadium Interchange – The option presented in July does straighten out the “stadium bump” somewhat, plus it moves the footprint about 200 yards to the south. We appreciate this design improvement but we feel that more can be done. Moving the interchange even further south would help to address the additional noise, air, and light pollution that threaten our neighborhood, plus the threat to Bluff Park and the neighbors who live atop it.

    Concerning the Wisconsin Avenue on/off ramp, neighbors strongly support keeping this interchange in future plans, especially if we lose General Mitchell Boulevard access and the 46th Street option does not work out.

  •   Public Transit - We repeat our continued support for a greater emphasis by WisDOT on public transit to serve our neighborhood, and the region in general, to minimize the need to do a complete freeway rebuild. This includes, but is not limited to, funding a better bus system, building and maintaining bike paths, on-street lanes, and roadways year round, designating high-occupancy- vehicle lanes, ride-share programs/locations, and building a future link to the downtown streetcar system.

  •   Stop the planning now - We agree with Aldermen Michael Murphy and Robert Bauman and the City of Milwaukee Department of Public Works when they call for a halt to any further I-94 freeway corridor planning until the lawsuit concerning the Zoo Interchange reconstruction plan is resolved. We echo Ald. Bauman’s sentiments that it is a huge waste of time and money to continue I-94 planning when issues concerning expansion designs vs. public transit needs for the Zoo are still being debated.

    Concerning the I-94 corridor and its stakeholders in general:
 SHNA is happy to see that most current entrance/exit ramps will remain open, including keeping 68th and 70th streets to the west, 35th and 27th streets to the east, and Wisconsin Avenue to the north. As stated earlier, we support keeping Hawley Road as well, even if the eight lanes at grade option is implemented. 

These access points are life lines to our business and residential neighbors and limiting access in this manner would be a hardship for them. Closing off any of these ramps along this stretch would force a larger amount of vehicles to use the next open ramp, causing congestion and safety headaches. It could also move too much traffic onto city streets that are not designed nor built to accommodate this extra traffic on an ongoing basis.

 We support preserving and maintaining our sister neighborhoods, their housing stock, and the city’s tax base. As stated above, we are opposed to increasing the I-94 footprint if it means taking homes and otherwise disrupting the quality of life in Milwaukee’s neighborhoods.

The SHNA overall position is to support making safety improvements to the I-94 corridor between 70th and 25th streets as necessary, but to otherwise rebuild the highway in the existing footprint, keeping all entrance/exit opportunities, except General Mitchell Boulevard, as is. The quality of life that the Story Hill neighborhood and our surrounding business districts and neighborhoods enjoy must not be reduced or worse, eliminated.

With the pending lawsuit concerning rebuilding the Zoo Interchange and more delays in completing the I- 94 North/South freeway through Racine and Kenosha counties, as well as other road projects proposed or already underway throughout the state, the SHNA does not believe a total rebuild of this freeway corridor is something taxpayers can afford.

Finally, as a result of the double deck “all up” option presented at the July public meetings, one neighbor who lives on Story Parkway plans to put her home up for sale, while another neighbor was reduced to tears when viewing the video and photo simulations of the highway 40 feet in the air. 

SHNA has repeatedly stated that this freeway project will have negative effects on our strong, thriving neighborhood – that seems to be coming to pass. An article in the April 2013 issue of Milwaukee Magazine (attached) states that Story Hill is one of the city’s next big neighborhoods, with its “charm...and strong sense of community.” 

By forcing an unneeded, unwanted, unaffordable, double deck, eight-lane freeway on Story Hill residents, how long can any neighborhood remain “charming” and thriving? Therefore, SHNA will continue to fight to keep Story Hill one of the best neighborhoods in Milwaukee.

Thank you again for the opportunity to share our positions and to go on record as part of the public comment session. As stakeholders on this project, SHNA remains committed to working closely with WisDOT to help minimize any and all negative impacts to our community while improving public safety along the I-94 freeway corridor.

Story Hill Neighborhood Association c/o 317 N. 50th St.
Milwaukee, WI 53208

cc: Stakeholders – I-94 freeway corridor

Mayor Tom Barrett

State Sen. Tim Carpenter State Sen. Nikiya Harris Sen. Tammy Baldwin County Super. David Cullen
Ald. Michael Murphy State Rep. Daniel Riemer State Rep. Evan Goyke Sen. Ron Johnson
Ald. Robert Bauman Cong. Gwen Moore 


Anonymous said...

How about an elevated high speed train?

Paddy Moran said...

5:46 - I believe the path of the HSR did not call for elevation beyond the intelligence of Republicons blinded by short sighted ideologues.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

How about an elevated high speed train?

You BET!