Friday, May 23, 2014

Citizens Oppose WisDOT Highway Boondoggle Beyond Milwaukee

Here's a short course in how the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, (WisDOT), is wasting public highway dollars by the millions while ignoring safer and less-costly alternatives.

Often these battles are fought in cities, where neighborhoods oppose expensive, polluting new Interstate highway lanes and ramps that overwhelm densely-populated areas.

But the subject of today's guest post is the financial, environmental, legal and public safety mess known as the Highway J/164 expansion-and-boondoggle (map, here) - - a battle in the out-suburbs and exurban hills of Waukesha and Washington Counties west and northwest of Milwaukee County - - and it's getting more and more media attention.

There have been some excellent accounts lately in The Capital Times, and the Shepherd Express.

A coalition of groups, suburban homeowners and farmers firmly opposed WisDOT's plan and initial re-construction to widen miles of two-lane highway in the Highway 164/J corridor that runs north through Washington County off I-94 in Waukesha County into a piece of the Kettle Moraine.

I've been posting their views since 2008.

The expansion will also add a wide median (that's how you build-in capacity for even more lanes later) along with limited, inconvenient access points - - so the opponents followed the process and Civics 101 by asking the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission, (SEWRPC) - - a frequent WisDOT ally with an unelected board - - to reject the plan.

But SEWRPC, as is its pattern, ignored the views of thousands of petition signers, and thus began WisDOT's spending and bulldozing - - and ongoing litigation, too. More history, here.

It's a familiar story to Milwaukeeans who have had to fight the WisDOT/SEWRPC/road-builder alliance for years over similar highway expansion in the Marquette Interchange to serve suburban commuters.

And now, as we speak, over the possible addition of more noise, pollution, lanes, ramps and elevated bridges in the narrow, urbanized I-94 corridor near Miller Park, the Story Hill neighborhood and three cemeteries there, too.

Today is right day for this history lesson, as WisDOT has the entire SE Wisconsin region detoured, delayed, diverted and other disgusted with orange barrels illustrating the state's refusal to use the longest-lasting highway building materials, hence our Memorial Day weekend congestion.

Jeff Gonyo leads the HJCJ Coalition; here is a first-hand account of what he, concerned citizens and the Waukesha Environmental Action League are facing:





Jeffrey M. Gonyo,

Steering Committee Member for the


P.O. Box 152, Hubertus , WI  53033

            Since 1999, the Highway J Citizens Group, U.A. (HJCG) has been waging a strong, well-organized grassroots battle to stop the Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s (WisDOT) repeated attempts to illegally and unnecessarily expand Highway 164 through Washington and Waukesha Counties. During the past five years, the HJCG (along with its co-plaintiff, the Waukesha County Environmental Action League) has scored four major victories as a result of these efforts.

            In 2009 and 2010, the federal court twice rejected the Highway 164 expansion project mainly because the WisDOT had failed to fully consider environmental impacts and reasonable alternatives and did not hold a proper public hearing, and last year, after the HJCG and WEAL filed another federal court action, the Federal Highway Administration rescinded its prior approval of this highly-controversial project. 

            At a January 23, 2014 public hearing, a standing room only crowd of irate citizens, along with many organizations (from both sides of the political spectrum), again joined together to strongly speak out against the WisDOT’s latest “warmed-over” version of their previously-rejected Highway 164 expansion project.

            In addition to the HJCG, this impressive list of organizations included the Waukesha County Environmental Action League, Scenic America, Citizens for Responsible Government, Endangered Species Coalition, Sierra Club, Milwaukee Riverkeeper, Wisconsin Metropolitan Audubon Society and the Center for Health, Environment and Justice. The 2014 Libertarian Candidate for Governor (Robert Burke) also submitted comments calling for the immediate cancellation of this project because it would waste over $16 million in tax money and jeopardize the private property rights of many area residents. 

            Because of this strong united opposition by both conservatives and environmentalists combined with several serious legal deficiencies identified by the HJCG’s attorneys, WisDOT now has been forced to delay the highway expansion plans for Highway 164 by another two years (until 2018). 

            Most disturbing here is the WisDOT’s adamant refusal to reduce Highway 164’s speed limit to 45 MPH which is a proven-effective, low-cost, easily-implemented and minimally-intrusive alternative to greatly improve traffic safety. According to proven, past experience, lowering Highway 164’s speed limit to 45 mph would reduce traffic accidents by nearly 80% (just like what happened back in 2000 when the speed limit was temporarily reduced to 45 mph for a five-month period).  The full implementation of a 45 mph speed limit on Highway 164 would cost only $8,000 according to the WisDOT’s current cost estimates. 

            However, instead of implementing this simple, low-cost, and highly-effective speed limit reduction, the irresponsible WisDOT bureaucrats want to wastefully-spend over $16 million to make Highway 164 wider, faster, busier and even more dangerous for both area residents and travelers.

            To help us continue this very worthwhile grassroots effort to stop unnecessary highway expansion, protect our natural resources, preserve our communities and save tax dollars, please donate today by mailing your checks to: HIGHWAY J CITIZENS GROUP, U.A., P.O. Box 152, Hubertus, WI  53033 or donate online using PayPal on our website at:  With your much-appreciated support, we can “change the way WisDOT does business” in Wisconsin .



Jeff Gonyo,
P.O. Box 152, Hubertus, WI  53033
Phone: (262)-644-8334


Steve Schmuki said...

Thank you Jim and Jeff for continuing to publicize this, "one of many", unnecessary and unwanted road projects in Wisconsin. And we should all call these projects what they really are; Development corridors and freight-ways.

Anonymous said...

SEWRPC is not a regulatory agency. The DNR, EPA, and Army Corps of Engineers are. SEWRPC merely won't lend support if development falls outside of its regional planning documents. In some cases, where areas identified as important natural resource areas exist, SEWRPC will oppose highway projects. For example, SEWRPC has worked hard to discourage the Waukesha bypass as currently laid out, because it would bisect a woodland that is large enough to provide habitat for forest interior birds. Now, if the bypass did not impact such a woodland, a designated natural area, or environmental corridor, SEWRPC would have little to say regarding the environmental aspects of the matter.