Independent Panel Seeks Public Comment on Proposed I-794 Reconstruction



MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) — The topic of what to do with Interstate 794 is front and center. An independent group wants your opinion because it is planned to be destroyed.

The DOT has already launched a study for what could be a major redesign of the 794. Some say the highway that’s carried cars across the lake for 50 years is actually doing the city a disservice.

“So yeah, I think we’re a voice for an alternative vision and we’re trying to make sure a boulevard option gets a fair chance,” said Gregg May, policy director for 1000 Friends of Wisconsin Transportation.

Some call 794 the highway to nowhere. Grassroots activists believe the freeway built in the 1970s to help connect suburbs to downtown Milwaukee should be turned into an at-grade boulevard, like this rendering they put up.

“And so, we just decided to step in and see if we could get the ball rolling to help people kind of reimagine what this downtown space could be,” May said.

The DOT is already considering a multimillion-dollar facelift for 794. A study that began in August could be completed in January.

“And $300,000,000 is huge, and that highway will be there for another 40 or 50 years if we spend that money,” May said.

Rethink 794 says a boulevard would open up 32.5 acres to $1.5 billion in business opportunity, increasing the tax base.

“So, you know, exploring urban freeways that are being torn down and turned into boulevards is something that’s happening all over the country,” May said.

We stopped random people in the Third Ward to get their thoughts.

“It’s already congested, but it would be a little more congested. Sounds okay, but like you said, you have to see how it would actually work,” said Linda Hassell, who works downtown.

“Construction is going to make it worse anyway, and the streets are already crowded. And some people might even lose business because if they destroy this, how are they going to get around to the other businesses?” said Felicia Hobbs, who also works downtown.

“So if you knock down a freeway and knock down a bridge, yes, it’s going to create problems,” Hassell said.

Rethink 794 is hosting a webinar on Wednesday, October 19, open to the public and ready to explain what a boulevard could do for the city.

The meeting starts at noon. You can find the link here.

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