WisDOT’s “urban” freeways carry just 34% of I-94 traffic

The “large urban freeways” WisDOT cites to justify its east-west I-94 expansion project carry an average of just 34% of I-94′s traffic load, according to WisDOT data.

Some 135 highways WisDOT includes in its accident rate comparisons carry less than 10% of the traffic I-94 does; 511 carry less than 20%.

WisDOT is proposing reconstruction and expansion of I-94 from 70th Street to 16th Street. In the Environmental Impact Statement for the project, WisDOT says that “Crash rates in the I‐94 East‐ West Corridor are mostly at least 2 to 3 times higher than the statewide average for similar roadways, and several sections are more than 4 times higher than the statewide average.”

The various-size road pieces that WisDOT includes in the average are all considered “large urban freeways,” even when they are not. The list includes, for example, a stretch of Highway 43 in Rock County that carries an average of 1,012 cars per day, or a whopping 0.67% of the average traffic count in the I-94 project area.

Here’s a table summarizing the number of highways in WisDOT’s “large urban freeway” category and the share of I-94 traffic they carry. 

Methodology — I got the I-94 traffic count from the WisDOT’s draft EIS, which puts the weekday traffic count at 143,000 to 160,500 for the stretch proposed for reconstruction. I took the average of those two numbers — 151,750.

Then I got from WisDOT the list of “large urban freeways” it includes in determining statewide crash averages. That list of 1,694 highway segments included individual historical average daily traffic counts. There were 192 segments with no daily counts recorded, so I threw those out, leaving me with 1,502 segments to work with. I simply simply divided the historical daily count by the I-94 average of 151,750 cars per day to figure out what percentage of I-94 traffic each segment carried.


These bad birds have been hanging around the back yard, looking like delinquents on the street corner. The one below is an immature Cooper’s Hawk sitting in our burr oak. It is staring past the empty bird feeders toward the evergreen bushes where the sparrows like to hang out. The Cooper’s got flustered and flew away when I stepped a little closer.

Cooper’s Hawks are rather opportunistic birds and bird feeders present a splendid opportunity. They also engage in “still hunting,” or just waiting patiently until dinner presents itself.

I filled the feeders yesterday afternoon, drawing all sorts of sparrows and other birds – like this one.

And then it flew straight up and into the bushes.

I waited to see if it caught a bird slow of wing. I missed the exit, but a bit later my roomie saw the Cooper’s at the edge of the driveway. After it was gone, we checked the spot. There was a small pile of feathers from a small bird. Guess the hunt was a success.

VA cemetery: wet, dark under WisDOT’s double-deck proposal

The 30-foot high double-decker freeway the Wisconsin Department of Transportation is proposing for I-94 would cast winter shadows over the northern part of Wood National Cemetery for most or all of the day, according to the I-94 Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS).

The cemetery already is divided by I-94, which is now grade level. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation is planning to expand the freeway and is considering double-decking it through Wood and neighboring cemeteries. The other cemeteries would be affected by the shadows as well, the DEIS says.

“During the winter months, the shade could extend up to 250 feet into the north part of the (Wood) cemetery,”  the DEIS says. That cemetery section, however, is only about 200 feet wide north to south, according to measurement with a rolling tape measure.Where the shadows would fall — Story Hill resident Steve Brachman stands at the northern end of the northern section of Wood National Cemetery. The picture is taken from the southern end. The cemetery section is about 200 feet wide; the DEIS says shadows from a 30-foot high double-decker freeway would extend 250 feet.

The northern part of the cemetery already has poor drainage and often is wet, according to  the DEIS.

Wood is operated by the National Cemetery Administration, which has as its mission to honor “veterans and their families with final resting places in national shrines and with lasting tributes that commemorate their service and sacrifice to our Nation.”

One of the purposes of the agency, according to its website, is to “maintain national cemeteries as national shrines, sacred to the honor and memory of those interred or memorialized there.”

Says the cemetery administration: “We will maintain the appearance of VA’s national cemeteries in a manner befitting a national shrine.”

The DEIS says that during the summer months, areas of the cemetery just north of I-94 “would experience portions of the day when they would not be shaded.”

Still, the DEIS says, a 0‐ to 10‐foot strip would be shaded for a “large portion” of the day, but grass could grow.

“With the right grass‐seed mixture, it would only need about 2 hours of sun per day to grow,” it says. It also says that WisDOT might help improve drainage at the site.