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West Allis not happy with state's plan to widen Highway 100

May 8, 2012

West Allis - State highway officials have three options for widening Highway 100 through West Allis, but city leaders don't like any of them because they all chew through businesses and, therefore, the city's tax base.

Last week, the Common Council voted to strongly protest all three options under consideration by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, sending a message not only to department officials but the city's state representatives and the governor, as well.

In protesting early on, West Allis joins its neighbor to the south, Hales Corners, which previously objected to loss of businesses that would result from of a planned widening of Highway 100 (aka 108th Street) within its borders. In response, the DOT has developed a concept that would take fewer buildings. Village and state officials are still negotiating.

While the DOT is already widening Highway 100 in Wauwatosa to eight lanes, it probably won't get around to West Allis until 2019, said Peter Daniels, West Allis principal engineer.

Considering the options

The least invasive option is to keep the six lanes through West Allis, with a five-foot bike lane added on each side. But even that would probably mean a loss of 17 buildings, $10 million in tax base and $200,000 in tax revenue for the city, Daniels said.

Another option, called the transit option, would widen the road to eight lanes, reserving the two new lanes for bicycles, buses and turning vehicles. That would likely result in 26 lost businesses, Daniels said.

"Both projects are totally ridiculous," said Alderman Gary Barczak.

The third option, an "unconventional option" that Daniels said is very unlikely, also would be eight lanes but would add turn lanes. It would mow down roughly 40 businesses, he said.

Despite the city's strong opposition, state officials have their own strong feelings about getting at least bike lanes along the road, Daniels said.

"I think we're going to have a real fight," he said.

An idea for I-894

What West Allis officials want instead is for the state to widen the six-lane Interstate 894 to eight lanes, leaving Highway 100 unscathed.

"It makes no sense to widen highway 100 to eight lanes and the freeway is six," Daniels said.

In fact, an eight-lane I-894 and a six-lane highway 100 are in the long-range plan of the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission, Daniels said. That concept is something the state, county and municipalities all agreed to, Daniels said.

Indeed, the state's original plan was to widen the freeway to eight lanes. But then it ran into money woes and opposition from mass transit advocates and others. So, the current plan is to leave it at six lanes.

Zoo interchange connection

Oddly enough, the Zoo Interchange renovation also could affect Highway 100 widening plans.

Zoo interchange plans call for not replacing an east-west Interstate 94 bridge over Underwood Creek Parkway.

That would slam the door on a potential north-south overflow road for Highway 100 that could get traffic from Greenfield Avenue to Bluemound Road. Although West Allis officials are divided on creating such a road because it would cut through residential areas, they would like to keep the option open.

A road already goes north from Greenfield Avenue at about 120th Street but stops well short of Bluemound. An overflow road that would be years in the future would probably not be on 120th Street, but would likely follow the bike trail north under I-94 to connect with Bluemound, Daniels said.

The city's protest also requests that the bridge be retained.

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