Zoo Interchange could take bite out of business in West Allis

Proprietors worry about loss of parking for impractical detour

A crowd of mostly Wisconsin Department of Transportation and West Allis officials attend a community meeting how closing the ramp from westbound Interstate 94 onto southbound 894 could affect West Allis.

A crowd of mostly Wisconsin Department of Transportation and West Allis officials attend a community meeting how closing the ramp from westbound Interstate 94 onto southbound 894 could affect West Allis.

Nov. 26, 2013

West Allis — A potential Zoo Interchange detour plan that would cost five West Allis businesses their street parking is being roundly criticized by some business owners, who said they would be giving up their parking for nothing.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation held a community meeting last week to gather input about the Lincoln Avenue detour plan. It would have drivers get off Interstate 94 at Miller Park Way and go south to Lincoln, taking that west to Beloit Road which would take traffic further west and south to I-894.

But Harry Strahlendorf, owner of Harry O's Second Base bar, 6743 W. Lincoln Ave., said drivers on I-94 won't come all the way down to Lincoln Avenue to get onto southbound Interstate 894 when they can to longer turn directly onto I-894 because of Zoo Interchange work. That will happen in 2015.

"The zoo is two or three miles from here. They aren't going to drive way out here," Strahlendorf said.

John Balistreri, an attorney with offices in one of the Lincoln buildings that would lose its parking, said "it basically puts me out of business, if they do it."

Because a significant part of Balistreri's practice is estate planning, the majority of his clients are elderly and need to park close.

"An 80-year-old person on a walker cannot walk a block" from 67th Street where street parking would remain, he said. His family-run practice has been at that location for 45 years, but if parking is lost, he will have to move, added Balistreri.

Defending the detour

Aside from the parking issue, one state DOT official argued that the detour is practical.

Drivers could well want to take Lincoln Avenue, even though it's a distance south of the Zoo Interchange, because there will be construction on I-894 to Lincoln Avenue, said Chris Hager, engineer with the DOT. That construction will start in 2016, he said.

Cars would need to take Beloit to the freeway because there is no southbound on-ramp to I-894, so the nearest one would be at Beloit Road, he said.

The Lincoln/Beloit detour will be evaluated against another detour — in which traffic would exit at 70th Street and go south to National Avenue to its junction with I-894.

But the Lincoln/Beloit detour is favored because the streets are bigger and can handle more freeway traffic than the 70th/National Avenue route, said Brian Du Pont, of the DOT planning team. Miller Park Way is three lanes and Lincoln and Beloit, both have two lanes. But National Avenue is only one lane from 70th to 95th, he said.

"More businesses are affected than with the Lincoln Avenue one," agreed Peter Daniels, West Allis principal engineer.

A DOT recommendation about the detour routes will likely come in January and a public hearing will then be held.

Nothing gained?

But regardless of which detour the DOT picks, drivers will find their own way around the ramp closure and it won't be the Lincoln/Beloit route, Strahlendorf said.

"They're going to go down side streets first," he said.

The businesses would pay a high price for nothing, Strahlendorf said.

"How's a small business supposed to make any money?" he asked, noting that the plan would profoundly affect him because he had planned to sell the bar and retire.

Alderman Michael Czaplewski sympathized with the Lincoln businesses.

"You're going to kill these businesses," he said. "Parking is the lifeblood of business."

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