FROM THE ARCHIVES: The Recombobulation Area's award-winning "Expanding the Divide" series, on the proposal to widen I-94 in Milwaukee
With news on the project this week, now is a good time to revisit this series.
The Recombobulation Area is a ten-time Milwaukee Press Club award-winning weekly opinion column and online publication written, edited and published by longtime Milwaukee journalist Dan Shafer. Learn more about it here.
The proposal to expand and widen I-94 in Milwaukee has been a controversial one, and this week, news broke that it is now under investigation by the Federal Highway Administration for a Title VI civil rights complaint.
The news was shared by a coalition of organizations opposed to highway expansion, who called on Gov. Tony Evers to “halt the project” and called on the Federal Highway Administration to “not issue a Final EIS or Record of Decision during the investigation.”
“This project is located in the most heavily racially segregated metropolitan region in the country,” said Dennis Grzezinski, the lead attorney, in a release. “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. The project will result in adverse impacts including increased carbon emissions, air pollution, water pollution, flooding, and fatal traffic crashes — which will disproportionately impact Black and Hispanic communities.”
You can read that full release, with comments from spokespersons from the Sierra Club - Wisconsin Chapter, Milwaukee Riverkeeper, 1000 Friends of Wisconsin, and Midwest Environmental Advocates HERE.
It remains to be seen what, if anything, will come from this federal investigation. As a report from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel notes, a similar review paused — but did not halt — a $9.7 billion freeway expansion project in Houston, Texas. But as a result of that federal investigation, the Texas Department of Transportation agreed to allocate $30 million to affordable housing, place air quality monitors along the route, and invest in new trails, bike paths and green space.
For those of you who might be newer subscribers to The Recombobulation Area (and there have been a lot of you this past year!) this proposal to expand and widen this 3.5-mile stretch of I-94 is a project we’ve followed closely for some time.
In June and July of 2021, we published a multi-part series on the proposed expansion of the East-West corridor of Interstate 94. This series went on to win three Milwaukee Press Club Excellence in Wisconsin Journalism Awards, including a gold award for “Best Multi-Story Coverage of a Single Feature Topic or Event.”
Given the news on the project this week — and potential news to come early this year on the Stadium Freeway — we thought it would be a good time to revisit this series. So, here it is, available for free, from our archives.
The multi-part series includes four stories. They are all below. Subscribe to The Recombobulation Area to help fund more of our award-winning local, independent journalism.
PLUS: See more of our coverage of the debate over freeway expansion in the links below (listed in chronological order).
Dan Shafer is a journalist from Milwaukee who writes and publishes The Recombobulation Area. He’s also written for The New York Times, The Daily Beast, Heartland Signal, Belt Magazine, WisPolitics, and Milwaukee Record. He previously worked at Seattle Magazine, Seattle Business Magazine, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine, and BizTimes Milwaukee. He’s won 17 Milwaukee Press Club Excellence in Journalism Awards. He’s on Twitter at @DanRShafer.
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