Answers to Questions about the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission and the Regional Freeway System Reconstruction Plan for Southeastern Wisconsin
What is the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission?
The Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (SEWRPC), a 21-member body, is the official areawide infrastructure planning agency for the highly urbanized seven county southeastern region of the State. The Commission was created to assist the seven counties and 147 cities, villages, and towns of southeastern Wisconsin, as well as the state and federal governments, to consider infrastructure related problems which extend throughout southeastern Wisconsin. The purpose of the Commission is to collect and analyze data and to prepare advisory plans to assist the seven counties, the 147 cities, villages, and towns, and the state and federal governments with respect to cooperation, coordination, and providing cost effective recommendations to existing and long-term infrastructure needs. The Commission’s data and plans address land use, transportation, floodland management, water quality/sewage treatment, parks and open space, farmland preservation, and environmental corridors and areas.
Under state law, the plans prepared by the Commission are strictly advisory to State, county, and municipal governments. No plan recommendation goes directly from the plan to construction. The implementing agency – State for state highways, county for county highways, and municipal governments for local streets – considers what will be constructed during preliminary engineering and environmental studies or during detailed local planning and programming activities.
What role does the Commission play in transportation planning?
The Commission is the official areawide transportation infrastructure planning agency for the seven county Southeastern Wisconsin Region. As such, the Commission is charged with identifying both current and long-range transportation needs and recommending advisory measures to address those needs. The regional transportation plan addresses and makes advisory recommendations with respect to land use, travel demand management, transportation system management, public transit, bicycle and pedestrian facilities, arterial streets and highways, and airports. By law, the plans prepared by the Commission are advisory to State, county, and municipal governments. No project goes directly from the plan to construction. Potential projects are considered during preliminary engineering and environmental studies and detailed planning and programming by the implementing unit of government and at that time decisions are made about what will be constructed and when a project will be undertaken.
Does the Commission have the authority to decide when and where highways will be built?
No. By law, the plans prepared by the Commission are advisory to State, county, and municipal governments. The Commission is a planning agency, not an implementing agency. The decision as to when and where highways will be built are made by the State for state highways, the County for county highways, and municipal governments for local streets. Those decisions are made by State, County, or municipal governments after they conduct required preliminary engineering and environmental studies on each potential highway project.
What is the “Regional Freeway System Reconstruction Plan for Southeastern Wisconsin?”
SEWRPC Planning Report No. 47, A Regional Freeway System Reconstruction Plan for Southeastern Wisconsin (PDF), presents a recommended plan and estimated schedule for the reconstruction of the freeway system of southeastern Wisconsin. The plan identifies those segments of the freeway system which will require reconstruction over the next thirty years, recommends that the freeway system be reconstructed to modern design standards, and further recommends that 127 miles of the 270 mile freeway system be reconstructed with additional traffic lanes to abate growth in travel congestion. These recommendations will be considered by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation as they conduct preliminary engineering and environmental impact studies of the freeway system segment-by-segment. The regional freeway system reconstruction plan was also conducted to provide systemwide estimates of the impacts and costs of freeway system reconstruction.
Does it contain detailed plans and alternate plans for rebuilding the freeway in the 13th Aldermanic District in Milwaukee, I-94 from Holt south to the city limits and I-894 for South 27th Street south to the city limits?
No. Detailed and alternate plans for the reconstruction of these segments of the freeway will be examined by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation during their conduct of preliminary engineering and environmental studies on these segments. The regional freeway system reconstruction plan only identified general conceptual recommendations for the reconstruction of the freeway system to modern design standards and recommended that the six lane stretches of IH 94 and IH 894 should be rebuilt to eight lanes.
What kind of improvements are recommended for the area in this study?
The conceptual improvements to modern design standards recommended to be considered for reconstruction include:
- Reconstruct the Mitchell Interchange to convert for right side entrance and exit ramps and with flatter horizontal and vertical curves;
- Reconstruction of interchanges for better ramp terminal intersection spacing (College Avenue, Rawson Avenue, and Ryan Road);
- Reconstruct the Airport Spur interchange with flatter horizontal and vertical curves;
- Provide flatter horizontal and vertical curves for safety and operation (Mitchell Interchange to Howard Avenue); and
- Construct collector-distributor (C-D) roadways, grade-separated connections, or auxiliary lanes between interchanges to reduce weaving and lane changing conflicts and to improve operations.
Also, reconstruct existing six-lane freeways to accommodate eight basic traffic lanes.
Will the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) follow this plan?
By law, the plan is advisory so the WisDOT is not required to follow this plan. During the conduct of preliminary engineering and environmental studies conducted by the WisDOT on these segments of the freeway system, the recommendations of the plan will be considered as one of a number of alternatives, including a “rebuild-as-is” alternative, alternatives without additional traffic lanes, and alternatives which may not fully meet modern design standards. Every proposal recommended in the regional plan and advanced to preliminary engineering and environmental studies does not proceed to construction.
Did the study identify addresses of homes that need to be taken? Did the study identify areas that homes might need to be taken? If there were, are there hundred blocks and streets that can be identified?
No. The regional freeway reconstruction plan did not identify addresses. The plan also did not identify hundred blocks of streets of homes that may need to be acquired for freeway reconstruction. The purpose of the regional plan was to estimate the total possible acquisition of homes regionwide should the freeway system be rebuilt to modern design standards and with additional lanes. The study also attempted to provide an estimate of the general locations where acquisition of homes throughout the Region may be required.
The purpose of the WisDOT preliminary engineering is to propose and design alternatives and identify the specific impacts of each design alternative including the specific addresses of homes which would need to be acquired, and ultimately, to determine how the freeway will be rebuilt—including the specific homes -- if any --which will need to be acquired.
Are there any changes in the area of the Airport Spur in freeway layout?
The only improvements identified during the conduct of the study regarding the Airport Spur were to consider providing flatter horizontal and vertical curvature in the ramps connecting IH 94 with the Airport Spur. No other improvements or changes were identified on the Airport Spur itself. However, General Mitchell International Airport is currently conducting an update to their Airport Master Plan. That update may be expected to include recommendations for long-term improvements and expansion of the existing passenger terminal. Depending upon the outcome of their master planning process, this may include recommendations regarding changes in the connection of the Airport Spur to Howell Avenue and to the Airport itself.
Can the freeway be built in the existing right-of-way?
Whether the freeway can, or will be, rebuilt entirely within the existing freeway right-of-way will be determined during the conduct of the WisDOT preliminary engineering and environmental studies. The Commission’s regional freeway reconstruction plan estimated that between the Mitchell Interchange and the Milwaukee-Racine County line, the six lane IH 94 freeway could be widened to eight lanes within the existing right-of-way, but some design improvements may have the potential to require the acquisition of additional right-of-way.
Will there be more on/off ramps than there are now?
The only locations in Milwaukee County where additional freeway interchanges have been proposed are a new interchange on IH 94 at Drexel Avenue in the City of Oak Creek; and the conversion of the existing half interchange to a full interchange on IH 94 at S. 27th Street at the Milwaukee County-Racine County line. These two interchanges are being considered by the Commission for inclusion in the regional transportation plan, and may be expected to be considered by WisDOT as they conduct their preliminary engineering and environmental impact studies.