DOT invites citizen input on 60th Street ramps

June 10, 2014

West Allis — West Allis residents, officials and business owners who don't want to lose the freeway ramps at 60th Street for Interstate 94 are expected to make their feelings known at an open house to be held Monday, June 16, by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.

Officials from the DOT will be on hand to explain the plan options and accept comments from 3 to 7 p.m. at the Pettit National Ice Center, 500 S. 84th St. People also can fill out comment cards at the open house.

There are still different options on the table, but the only one that will save the 60th Street ramps proposes making I-94 into a double-decker road for part of the way mainly east of West Allis. The reason for the double-deck is that there isn't enough room to widen I-94 to eight lanes and still have a merging lane for eastbound traffic from a 60th Street ramp, said Peter Daniels, principal engineer for West Allis. Graves of Civil War soldiers would be in the path of an on-ramp.

The DOT has said moving the graves, as was done 50 years ago when the freeway was constructed, is not an option. Laws have changed, and there are no recent precedents of historic veteran graves being moved, Daniels said.

The double-deck plan would cost $170 million to $185 million more than building at grade, depending on the construction method, said Michael Pyritz, communication specialist for the DOT southeast region.

Not only that, but many Milwaukee residents don't want to look at a double-deck freeway, and officials for the administration at Wood National Cemetary have said it would detract from the cemetery's aesthetics.

A recent option to keep ramps at 60th for traffic to and from the west will be presented at the open house.

But Daniels said an option that would let drivers only go west wouldn't help many businesses near the 60th Street ramps very much.

For example, U.S. Bank has a lot of offices in downtown Milwaukee, so personnel would not be able to get there easily, Daniels said. Similarly, Johnson Controls, which will bring 800 jobs to the Renaissance Center, 801 S. 60th St., has a facility downtown and a headquarters in Glendale that would be harder to access.

But it's CBS Channel 58 that might be most affected, Daniels said.

"It has always been adamant that it needs to get TV crews onto the freeway as soon as possible to cover stories," he said.

With a half-diamond instead of a full interchange, Daniels said, "only half the traffic would be accommodated instead of all the traffic like it is now."

But Pyritz said it would get some of the job done.

"We're interested in keeping as much access as possible at that location," he said. The option doesn't fit everyone, and the DOT has to balance desires of various groups that will be affected, Pyritz added.

Adding an interchange also adds $25 million to $30 million in cost, he said.

Closing the 60th Street ramps entirely would mean the only ones available would be at 68th/70th. And because there would be not frontage road to get to those, traffic would likely filter through neighborhoods, Daniels predicted.

After a second public information meeting is held from 5 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, June 17, at Marquette University High School, 3401 W. Wisconsin Ave., the DOT will come up with one or two plans, Pyritz said. Then a public hearing will be held, probably late this year or in early 2015, and probably at the Tommy G. Thompson Youth Center at the Wisconsin State Fair grounds.

But shovels won't hit the ground until after the Zoo Interchange rehabilitation is done in 2019, he said.

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