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NBC TMJ4 - 10/19/2022

NBC TMJ4 - 10/19/2022

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Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson on Monday is expressing openness to demolishing I-794 on downtown's southern edge, a step some environmentalists and urbanists have been advocating.

In doing so, he evoked the development that has taken place on the empty lots left behind when Milwaukee's Park East Freeway was replaced with surface streets 20 years ago.

"How do you look at Park East being gone and what's there presently ― the Deer District, Fiserv Forum, a hotel going up right now, other development that's going to happen down the line ― and not think, what if?" Johnson said Monday during a meeting of the Greater Milwaukee Committee. "I'm certainly interested in having the conversation to see what the possibilities are," he said.

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A member of Rethink 794 joins The Morning Show with Lee Rayburn to discuss a proposal to dismantle portions of I-794 and promote walkable and bikeable communities.

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FOX 6 NEWS - 10/25/2022

The Grassroot organization Rethink I-794 proposes turning a portion of I-794 into a boulevard that will connect downtown Milwaukee and the Historic Third Ward...Business leaders in the Third Ward said they are eager for more information.

The coalition is pushing for a formal study of their proposal. FOX6 News reached out to the mayor’s office for his take on their suggestions. A spokesman said the mayor is very open to rethinking I-794 and wants more people to consider roadways for more than cars and look into how they affect bicyclists, pedestrians, businesses and nearby residents.

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Some Milwaukee business and community leaders are open to the push by a small but vocal group of local planners and residents advocating for demolition of downtown’s Interstate 794 bridges to be replaced by a boulevard and new development, which could include offices, apartments or green space.

The Milwaukee Business Journal asked a group of business and community leaders if they supported the effort to remove the east-west I-794 highway bridges roughly from Sixth Street to Lincoln Memorial Drive to make way for a boulevard and additional development. You can read some of their responses below.

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CBS 58 - 10/18/2022

The topic of what to do with Interstate 794 is front and center. An independent group wants your input as consideration is being made to potentially tear it down.

The DOT's already got a study underway for what could be a major overhaul of 794. Some say the highway that's been carrying cars over the lake for 50 years is actually doing the city a disservice.

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

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WISN 12 ABC NEWS - 10/18/2022

The grassroots organization Rethink I-794 has been pushing for an at-grade boulevard study for the Interstate 794 corridor.

It is hosting a webinar at 12 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 19. to reveal renderings made by area designers who have volunteered to work on the project. 

Rethink I-794 is advocating for reconnecting downtown to the Third Ward, opening land for potential development, creating better walking and biking connections and strengthening the city's tax base.

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ONMILWAUKEE - 10/17/2022

Rethink 794 – which includes local advocates, volunteer professionals, and environmental and transportation advocacy groups – is amping up the discussion of this long-bandied idea now because the corridor is slated to get $300 million in repairs, making it the perfect time for a re-think.

“Sixty years ago, the elevated highway through downtown Milwaukee erased the historic character of the city in the name of progress because it was, at that time, the best intended use of that urban space,” added Xu Zhang, Landscape Architect & Urban Designer at Dover, Kohl & Partners, who created the street-level renderings.  “Now, in this new millennium, is an elevated urban highway the best we can imagine for this prime area? Across the country, efforts to transform interstate highways that have outlived their intended use into walkable neighborhoods have gained momentum and support.

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URBAN MILWAUKEE - 10/17/2022

A new coalition, known as Rethink 794, has a vision to see Interstate 794 in downtown Milwaukee replaced with a boulevard. It’s a proposal the group thinks could save money, grow Milwaukee and better connect the city.

Their proposal, which they’re asking the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) to study, would keep the Hoan Bridge. But the east-west elevated freeway between N. Lincoln Memorial Dr. and N. 6th St. would be replaced with a street-level boulevard. The coalition released renderings Monday of what the reconfigured street could look like, with the Historic Third Ward reconnected to Downtown.\

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WTMJ - 09/15/2022

“We’re seeing cities around the country rethinking their downtown highways, turning them into boulevards, spurring development,” said Gregg May, transportation policy director for 1000 Friends of Wisconsin. “In our conversations with the DOT they said they’re going to be looking at a boulevard study. Hopefully we’ll get a shot with [their] engineers.”

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There is public backing for replacing the freeway with an at-grade street, said Gregg May, transportation policy director at 1,000 Friends of Wisconsin, which focuses on connections between land use planning, transportation and the environment. "Is an elevated highway the best land use?" asked May, whose professional background is urban planning.

[The] Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce supports studying a boulevard option for I-794, said President Tim Sheehy..."the context of repurposing what would be high value, developable land for the city," Sheehy said. "Development that would add livability and tax base to land that is roadkill at this point."

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1000 Friends of Wisconsin posted on Twitter about that $300 million replacement cost when it became public last December “and it just blew up,” said transportation policy director Gregg May.  He has since helped organize the “Rethink 794 in MKE, Reconnect the Grid!” effort that proposes removing the new and old I-794 bridges roughly from Sixth Street on the west and East Chicago Street on the south, he said. Clybourn Street running through that area could become a two-way boulevard to accommodate the traffic and make the same connection between the remaining Hoan Bridge, and Marquette Interchange to the west, May said.

That would open about 32.5 acres for new development valued at more than $1 billion, according to studies the group has performed with a volunteer broker. “I-794 sits on some of the most valuable real estate in the entire state of Wisconsin,” May said. “Is the best use of this land to have an overbuilt highway that can maybe move people through a minute or two faster?”

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