Thursday, December 4, 2008

ACLU files civil rights complaint over I-94 project

The American Civil Liberties Union filed with the US Department of Transportation Wednesday a civil rights complaint seeking to halt expansion of North-South I-94. The press release from ACLU is below. You can read the entire complaint here.

The ACLU of Wisconsin today requested a federal investigation of the Wisconsin Department ofTransportation for violating civil rights laws when it decided to expand I-94.

In a complaint filed with Offices for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration, the ACLU objected to WisDOT’s plans to widen I-94, build a new interchange at Drexel Ave., and close much of the interchange at 27th St. and I-894.

TheACLU is requesting that the government investigate WisDOT, stop the widening of I-94, and prevent construction of the Drexel Interchange - especially if the 27th St. Interchange is closed.

“WisDOT’s own environmental impact statement shows that building the Drexel Interchange is likely to hurt development in the city of Milwaukee - the state’s only majority-minority city -while it helps development in non-diverse suburbs,” noted Karyn Rotker, senior staff attorney for the ACLU of Wisconsin.

Rotker added that the disparities will worsen with closure of the 27th St. Interchange. “Title VI of the Civil Rights Act makes it clear that agencies can’t take actions that have a discriminatory effect on communities of color - even if the discrimination isn’tintentional.”

There are similar problems with spending hundreds of millions of dollars to add lanes to I-94, added ACLU of Wisconsin Executive Director Chris Ahmuty. “WisDOT has said adding the lanes is going to have only a minimal effect on travel times - and that not adding lanes could increase the market for development closer to downtown Milwaukee, thus helping city residents,most of whom are persons of color.”

WisDOT, however, rejected that approach. The ACLU complaint also asserts that expanding highways without moving forward on public transportation projects has a discriminatory effect on communities of color, who are disproportionately dependent on public transit.

“In a time of limited resources, WisDOT needs to ensure that it isn’t increasing the disparities between those with access to cars and transit dependent persons. But that’s what this plan does. Instead, WisDOT needs to ensure that a fair share of the benefits of its transportation programs are going to communities of color - who willbe much more likely to benefit from increased transit access than from the bigger highway WisDOT wants to build.”

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