We’ve seen time and time again that expanding freeways to reduce congestion just doesn’t work. In location after location, adding more lanes sometimes works in the short term, but eventually, as more people use the new infrastructure, the highway eventually becomes as congested as before. More lanes means more driving, which means more greenhouse gas emissions, and more noise and air pollution for those living near the highway. Far from a solution to traffic congestion, these costly projects just further entrench the cause- our auto-centric transportation system, which harms the environment, feeds the emissions causing climate change, and damages residents’ health and communities.
Despite this, many states continue to push forward with these costly “highway boondoggles”. One of them is Wisconsin, where on Friday the state Department of Transportation (WisDOT) confirmed their intent to expand the I-94 East-West highway in Milwaukee from six lanes to eight, despite opposition from elected officials, environmental and civil rights groups, and local residents.
The project had been rejected in 2017 due to a lack of funding, but was brought back to life in 2020 at the request of Governor Tony Evers. Local residents had proposed a “Fix at Six” plan, where safety improvements would be installed on the highway but no lanes would be added, but WiDOT instead endorsed an eight-lane plan this Friday. Construction is slated to start in 2025. Public hearings on the proposal will be held on December 12 and 14.
Our transportation system needs better repair and maintenance of existing infrastructure, and investments in multimodal transportation such as public transportation (which continues to struggle to maintain adequate funding in the city) and walking and biking infrastructure- not costly, unnecessary projects like this one.