Frequently Asked Questions
Following are some Frequently Asked Questions regarding SEWRPC
and the Regional Freeway System Reconstruction Study for Southeastern
What is SEWRPC?
SEWRPC stands for Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission.
The Commission was established in 1960 under Section 66.945 of the
Wisconsin Statutes as the official areawide planning agency for
the highly urbanized southeastern region of the State. The Commission
serves the Southeastern Wisconsin Region, which consists of the
seven counties of Kenosha, Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Racine, Walworth,
Washington, and Waukesha.
What was the Regional Freeway System Reconstruction Study for
The study was an effort on the part of SEWRPC to prepare a plan and
program for rebuilding the regional freeway system in the 21st Century.
A key objective of the study was to develop a broad understanding
of the emerging freeway system needs and, based upon that understanding,
build a regional consensus on the desirable scope of a freeway reconstruction
plan and program.
Who asked for this study?
The Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation requested
that SEWRPC lead an effort to prepare a plan and program for rebuilding
the regional freeway system in the 21st Century.
Why was the study done?
Freeways have areawide significance, serving multiple municipalities,
counties, and states, and carrying traffic through the Southeastern
Wisconsin Region, as well as through the State of Wisconsin. The
study was conducted in an effort to reach a broad consensus
among all concerned parties as to how to reconstruct the freeway
system to best serve everyone's needs in the 21st Century.
Who sponsored and conducted the study?
The study was sponsored and conducted by the Southeastern Wisconsin
Regional Planning Commission as the official areawide planning agency
for the seven county Southeastern Wisconsin Region and the designated
metropolitan transportation planning organization (MPO) for the
Milwaukee, Racine, and Kenosha metropolitan areas. A local consultant
firm, HNTB, assisted the Commission in the conduct of the study.
The Commission worked closely with the Wisconsin Department of
Transportation in carrying out the study.
Who funded the study?
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation funded the study,
including Commission staff work and funding to enable the Commission
to retain consultants to assist, in particular, the Commission and
the Department in developing cost and impact estimates associated
with proposals to rebuild and redesign the regional freeway system.
What was included in the final recommended plan for freeway system reconstruction?
The final recommended plan for freeway system reconstruction recommends the reconstruction of the freeway system to modern design standards and with additional lanes on 127 miles of freeway. The design improvements would include improvements such as the relocation of left hand on-and off-ramps to the right hand side, the minimization of lane drops, the provision of longer and wider ramp tapers, the provision of full inside and outside shoulders, and other design improvements. Additional lane capacity would be added to the following freeway segments as those segments are rebuilt over time (total of 127 miles of freeways):
- IH 94 in Kenosha, Racine, and Milwaukee Counties from the Wisconsin-Illinois State line to the Mitchell Interchange (from the present six to eight lanes)
- IH 43 in Milwaukee County from the Mitchell Interchange to Silver Spring Drive (from the present six to eight lanes)
IH 94 in Milwaukee County from the Marquette Interchange to the Zoo Interchange (from the present six to eight lanes)
IH 94 in Milwaukee and Waukesha Counties from the Zoo Interchange to STH 16 (from the present six to eight lanes)
IH 94 in Waukesha County from CTH SS to STH 67 (from the present four to six lanes)
IH 894 in Milwaukee County from the Mitchell Interchange to the Zoo Interchange (from the present six to eight lanes)
USH 45 in Milwaukee, Waukesha, and Washington Counties from the Zoo Interchange to the Richfield Interchange where USH 41 and USH 45 divide in Washington County (from the present six to eight lanes)
IH 43 in Milwaukee and Waukesha Counties from Racine Avenue to the Hale Interchange (from the present four to six lanes)
IH 43 in Milwaukee and Ozaukee Counties from Silver Spring Drive to the Saukville Interchange where STH 57 and IH 43 divide in Ozaukee County (from the present four to six lanes)
What is the estimated cost to reconstruct the regional freeway system under the recommended plan?
The total estimated cost to reconstruct the regional freeway system under the recommended plan is $6.23 billion.
How much of the total estimated cost to rebuild the freeway system is associated with the recommended additional lanes 127 miles of the freeway system?
About $710 million, or about 11 percent, of the total estimated cost of $6.23 billion to rebuild the regional freeway system under the recommended plan is associated with the proposed additional lanes. Most of the $6.23 billion dollar cost is associated with rebuilding the existing system to modern design standards, not with the recommended additional lanes.
How many homes and business would need to be acquired from their current owners under the recommended plan?
An estimated 201 homes and 28 businesses would need to be acquired over the several decades that it will take to reconstruct the regional freeway system. The precise number and location of homes and businesses that would need to be acquired cannot be determined until the conclusion of more detailed preliminary engineering and environmental studies.
How many of the estimated homes and businesses to be acquired are due to the recommended additional lanes?
Less than 20 percent of the homes and businesses are associated with the recommended additional lanes—35 of the 201 homes, and 5 of the 28 businesses.
Will the reconstruction of IH 94 with additional lanes through Wood National Cemetery in the City of Milwaukee as recommended result in the relocation of graves?
No. By elevating the westbound lanes of IH 94, no removal or relocation of graves and no increase in land dedicated to freeways and streets is likely in Wood National Cemetery. The elevation of those westbound lanes will be required whether or not additional lanes are provided, if grave disturbance is to be avoided and if safety shoulders are to be provided. During the subsequent preliminary engineering and environmental impact studies prior to reconstruction the WisDOT will consider all reasonable alternatives for reconstruction of this freeway segment.
What is the estimated property tax base impact of the recommended plan?
The estimated property tax base impact to the entire Region is approximately $194 million over the next several decades. About $51 million, or about a quarter of that total, is related to the recommended additional lanes. These estimates are conservatively high, as they include acquisition administration and relocation costs. The actual impact will not be determined until subsequent preliminary engineering and environmental studies are conducted.
Do the estimated right-of-way requirements prepared under the study account for estimated right-of-way needed to address storm water management and any necessary relocation of utility facilities?
Could expanded public transit and possibly rail transit systems have made the recommended additional lanes unnecessary to address freeway congestion problems?
No. The study was explicitly structured to consider freeway widening as a measure of last resort by identifying the freeway traffic volumes and congestion that may be expected even if smart land use growth occurs, public transit is significantly expanded, and even completed light rail and commuter rail systems are implemented.
Would the residents and businesses of Milwaukee County benefit from the reconstruction of the regional freeway system with the recommended additional lanes?
Yes. More than 50 percent of the daily traffic of the freeways system in the Milwaukee County is made by the residents of Milwaukee County and another 40 percent of the Milwaukee County freeway system daily traffic to and from Milwaukee Counties businesses and industries. The residents and businesses of Milwaukee County will benefit from reduced travel times, reduced congestion related safety problems, and increased travel time reliability.
Will reconstruction begin immediately based on the recommendations of the freeway reconstruction study?
No. The recommended freeway system reconstruction plan does not represent the final approval or conclusion of study of freeway reconstruction. Each 10 to 15 mile segment of freeway will need to undergo multiyear preliminary engineering and environmental impact studies by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, and final decisions as to how each segment will be reconstructed are only made at the conclusion of preliminary engineering. Only the Marquette Interchange, for which preliminary engineering and environmental studies have already been completed by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, is scheduled to be reconstructed-between 2005 and 2008. No other freeway segment is scheduled for reconstruction at this time.
How will the reconstruction of the regional freeway system be funded?
About $200 million dollars per year will be required over the next several decades to reconstruct the regional freeway system. About $50 million dollars of that annual requirement may be expected to come from money that’s currently spent on freeway resurfacing. Another $50 million dollars per year has already been set aside by the State Legislature. The remaining funding will need to come from Federal aid and additional State funding. About $850 million dollars is spent annually by the State on State highway construction, and the Governor and Legislature have the responsibility to prioritize spending needs.
Was the public involved during the freeway reconstruction study?
Yes, the study was carried out in such a way as to facilitate the active participation of public officials, business and civic leaders, environmental and community groups, and other concerned and interested citizens and parties. Public involvement throughout the study was viewed as being critical to its successful completion. A proactive approach to public involvement was undertaken.
Public involvement efforts included the following:
- A series of study newsletters
- This study website
- A total of 19 public meetings and hearings
- Additional meetings with interested groups and municipalities
- A survey of over 15,000 resident households in southeastern Wisconsin
- Solicitation of actions by Counties in the Region regarding the preliminary recommended plan
The three volumes of the study Record of Public Comments are available on the "Study Newsletters, Reports, and Meetings" section of this website.
Will there be more opportunities for public involvement prior to the reconstruction of each segment of the freeway system?
Yes. The regional freeway system reconstruction study represented only the beginning of the process leading to reconstruction. During the subsequent preliminary engineering and environmental impact studies for each freeway segment, the WisDOT will again seek public input and input from affected communities prior to final decisions being made as to how each freeway segment will be reconstructed.
Is freeway traffic safety addressed by the recommended plan?
Yes. Freeway traffic safety is addressed primarily in two ways by-addressing design deficiencies and by addressing freeway traffic congestion. The freeway system was built in the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s, and since that time, there have been decades of experience with, and research on, freeway operations and safety. In fact, national design standards have been developed. While there will be a significant cost associated with improving the design of the freeway system, the design improvements were recommended because of the benefits were viewed as outweighing the cost. The recommended plan also addresses safety through the additional freeway capacity. The rear-end crash rates on the most congested freeway segments are 5 to15 times higher than on uncongested freeway segments, and rear-end collisions represent about 70 percent of all crashes on some congested freeway segments. Failure to address freeway traffic congestion would mean a failure to address congestion-related safety problems.
Will adding freeway capacity just induce additional travel and offset any expected congestion reduction benefits?
The proposed additional freeway traffic capacity is not expected to induce more travel over the existing situation. Study of historic traffic growth in southeastern Wisconsin has shown that nearly 90 percent of traffic growth was not due to induced travel, but due to other factors such as economic and household growth and changing population lifestyles. Also, additional freeway traffic lanes are expected to only modestly reduce freeway traffic congestion levels. Therefore, adding the recommended freeway lanes cannot be expected to induce more travel over the existing situation.
Were additional noise barriers recommended to be built upon freeway reconstruction?
The recommended freeway reconstruction plan does assume the construction of additional noise barriers and the reconstruction of existing noise barriers. The locations of the additional noise barriers were not determined as part of the freeway reconstruction study, but during a previously completed study conducted by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation entitled Wisconsin Noise Barrier Study. However, the specific location and extent of noise barriers ultimately to be included in reconstructed regional freeway system will be determined in a segment-by-segment preliminary engineering and environmental studies.
Will the recommended additional lanes result in increased air pollutant emissions and decreased air quality in southeastern Wisconsin?
The recommended additional lanes are expected to have a negligible impact on the level of transportation system ozone-related and other air pollutant emissions and air quality. This is because similar levels of regional vehicle traffic are expected with or without the additional lanes, only more or less under congested conditions and on freeways as opposed to surface arterials. In fact, transportation system ozone related air pollutant emissions have been significantly declining and are projected to continue to decline even with increasing traffic. This is principally a result of new motor vehicle standards for air pollutant emissions—“tailpipe technology”
Will the reconstruction of the regional freeway system with design improvements and additional capacity result in a greater quantity and power quality of stormwater runoff?
The reconstruction of the regional freeway system even with design improvements and additional lanes may be expected to result in improved conditions with respect to freeway stormwater runoff compared to the existing situation. This is because substantial advances in stormwater management have been made since the freeway system was originally designed and constructed, and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation now requires that stormwater management issues be properly addressed. Recent reconstruction efforts including the North Interchange and Miller Park Way in Milwaukee County have included the implementation of measures to improve freeway stormwater runoff conditions.