Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Freeway plan increases runoff, Milwaukee County hit hardest

The proposed $1.9 billion I-94 north-south expansion project would increase paved-over freeway land in the corridor by almost almost 50% in Milwaukee County, according to the draft Environmental Impact Statement for the project.

The amount of impervious I-94 freeway land would increase from 10.3 million square feet to 15.4 million square feet, a 49.7% increase, according to the EIS.

That is more than the combined pavement increases in Racine and Kenosha counties in Wisconsin and Lake County in Illinois, the other counties affected by the proposed expansion project.

"The amount of storm water runoff is expected to increase proportionately to the increase in impervious surface (that is, pavement)" according to the EIS.

The project overall would increase freeway-related pavement from 37 million square feet to 46.4 million square feet, a 25.4% increase.

Some of the Milwaukee County land to be filled -- about 174,000 square feet -- is floodplain, or land that is susceptible to flooding. Increasing the amount of land that cannot absorb water raises flooding risks.

Runoff from the hard surfaces of freeways is generally highly contaminated.

Chemical pollutants from cars can poison water, vegetation and associated aquatic life.

The document does not specify any steps the state would take to reduce pollution from the increased runoff. It states only that "best practices" are under consideration that would decrease pollution from current levels.

It also does not specify any steps the state would take to reduce potential flooding.

The Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District is involved in major, expensive flood control and water quality efforts in the Milwaukee area. MMSD spokesman Bill Graffin said district officials say WisDOT has not been in touch with them about the North-South project.

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