An angry Ald. Michael Murphy said Tuesday that Wisconsin Department of Transportation did not disclose to city officials its plans to build super-sized, 18-foot-wide shoulders on I-94 east of the Zoo Interchange.
The wide expanse of shoulders would damage property values and create negative impacts for residents living near the freeway, he said.
The shoulders would be wide enough to accommodate additional traffic lanes in the future, should WisDOT decide to add a fourth lane eastbound and westbound along that stretch of freeway. Standard shoulders are eight feet to 12 feet wide, according to WisDOT documents.
“It was a sin of omission,” Murphy said in an interview Tuesday. He said WisDOT representatives were asked about potential expansion scenarios several times when they met with him, City Engineer Jeff Polenske and Public Works Commissioner Jeff Mantes.
“They weren’t forthcoming with that information,” Murphy said, adding that he was “very disappointed in the professionalism” of the WisDOT employees.
Murphy said city officials would seek to extend the April 4 deadline for comments on revised draft environmental impact statement for the proposed project. He said the Common Council needed the time to take an official on the WisDOT proposal.
“This has been on a very fast pace,” he said. The council meets April 12.
Polenske said he did not learn of the plan to build the super-sized shoulders until public meetings on the project last week.
Said Murphy: “If you don’t ask the question the right way, they won’t provide the information. You understand why people get cynical about them.”
The Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement does not discuss the possibility of 18-foot shoulders.
One page of the document promises “full 8- to 12-foot shoulders on all ramps and freeways” in the core of the interchange. The possibility of significantly wider shoulders is only hinted at.
“WisDOT and FHWA (Federal Highway Administration) have decided not to implement either narrower lanes or allow shoulder use,” the document states. “However, the Modernization Alternatives would not preclude using shoulders as travel lanes at some point in the future.”