Stop the #ZombieHighway!

Construction on a multi-lane section of I-94

Governor Evers recently announced that he is reviving a highway expansion project that the Sierra Club and our allies have opposed for over a decade. The project that we defeated under Scott Walker is now being brought back to life. We must ensure that this zombie of a project is stopped!

This plan would rebuild and expand 3.5 miles of Interstate 94 to Milwaukee between the Marquette and Zoo Interchanges. Former Governor Scott Walker had cancelled the billion dollar expansion in 2017 due to high costs, community opposition, and litigation by several groups concerned about racial and environmental justice.

This is a time in which many are experiencing increased economic hardships due to the COVID pandemic, there are only ten years left to stop climate change, and there is a heightened awareness around structural racism in our society. Communities of color are dispororitnaly impacted by our polluting, car-centered transportation system and by highway expansions just like this one. 

We seek to bring to light the concerns over the newly-revived I-94 expansion project and clearly illustrate to Governor Evers that this project has strong opposition due to the project’s negative impact on racial segregation in Milwaukee, air pollution, climate change, and state budget. You can read our statement about it here

The I-94 expansion project was and still is a bad idea for so many reasons:

  1. It would worsen the climate crisis. The transportation sector is the largest contributor to anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions in the US. Expanding highway infrastructure that caters to single passenger traffic will increase carbon emissions. This project is in direct conflict with the expressed goals of the Governor’s Climate Task Force.  Here’s the bottom line: climate-friendly governors do not expand highways.

  2. It would negatively impact public health. Because highway expansion almost always increases the number of cars on the road, air pollution increases with these projects. Traffic pollution causes asthma, cardiovascular disease and dementia. Entertaining the idea of expanding a highway during a pandemic is inexcusable.

  3. It would exacerbate racial injustice. Wisconsin’s decades-long focus on highway transportation investments has worsened the region’s racial and economic segregation. Not only are highways a physical barrier, but they also increase air pollution in the surrounding communities - which are Communities of Color.  In 2014, the federal government found that the Zoo Interchange caused “irreparable harm,” to minority communities. This project on the same corridor is no different. Members of low-income and minority communities often lack reliable transportation options. Yet, this project is being reconsidered even at a time of heightened awareness about structural racism in Wisconsin.

  1. It would be costly. Spending money (an estimated $1 billion) on this project at the expense of fixing our local roads and repairing our existing road and transit infrastructure is a big price to pay for a mere 3.5 miles of interstate. Meanwhile, Wisconsin’s public transportation system and local road system are languishing due to lack of investment.

  2. It would not fix congestion as proponents of the project suggest; in fact - highway expansions often make congestion worse shortly after construction is complete! This is because of induced demand -- essentially “if you build it, they will come.” Why should a damaging project move forward to make the very thing proponents of the project want to solve even worse?

It is abundantly clear: expanding I-94 during a time of economic crisis, public health concern, and increased awareness over racial disparities is irresponsible and harmful. Make your voice heard! Tell the Evers Administration not to move forward on a project that is proven to be harmful and offers no solutions to real transportation issues our communities are facing. 

Join us today in asking Governor Evers to change his mind and to halt this project! 

Looking for more ways to take action on this? 

  1. Call the Governor! Click here for a script you can use and share with your members and for the Governor’s phone number

  2. Spread the word on social media by posting this link and tweeting at the Governor

  3. Submit a letter to the editor to your local paper about why this project should not move forward. 

We must urge Governor Evers not to expand this highway. Instead, we must focus on fixing the roads we have and invest in public transportation, walking, biking and other ways to improve our communities. Stop the #ZombieHighway!


Photo courtesy of Jeramey Jannene