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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Thursday, Nov. 27, 2014

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In Milwaukee Buzz

The bridges and ramps highlighted in pink will be replaced between Monday and Memorial Day. (PHOTO: Department of Transportation photo)

Ask OMC: What's the deal with the Zoo Interchange?


Here at OnMilwaukee.com, we take pride in being Milwaukee experts. Since it is literally our job to eat, sleep and breathe all things Brew City, we get many questions from our readers.

This is where we answer them.

In the "Ask OMC" series, we take your questions -- big or small -- and track down the answers. Send your query to askomc@staff.onmilwaukee.com. Be sure to include your name and location, and we will consider it for our next installment.

Our current question comes from Bob in North Prairie, who writes:

"I drive through the Zoo Interchange twice a day nearly every day. When does construction start and how badly is it going to screw up my life?"

Well, Bob, we have good news and bad news....

The good news is that reconstruction of three 40-year-old bridges in the Zoo Interchange -- the busiest highway interchange in the state -- begins Monday and shouldn't change your commute too much because construction will be "tight" to the current footprint. Officials expect a lot of the lane closures to happen at night and on weekends. They also hope to have work completed by Memorial Day, weather permitting, at a cost of roughly $15 million.

The bad news is that this is being regarded as a temporary fix until there is enough funding to rebuild the entire interchange -- a project that could rival the Marquette Interchange in terms of cost, length and commuter inconvenience.

Milwaukee Constructors LLC, made up of Edward Kraemer & Sons Inc., Lunda Construction Co. and Zenith Tech -- the same three contractors who teamed together for the Marquette Interchange project -- received the contract to do the work. (They were the only group to submit a bid).

The original price tag was $11 million, but it went up because the Department of Transportation wanted to limit ramp and lane closures. Under the current plan, the bridges being replaced and the ramps below will be fully closed on only one weekend (per bridge/ramp).

Traffic will be restricted to single lanes and routed onto the shoulders primarily during nighttime hours.

The Zoo Interchange on the west edge of Milwaukee connects I-94 and I-894/U.S. Highway 45, major east-west and north-south routes for commuters and commercial traffic in the state. Roughly 350,000 vehicles pass through daily.

This summer, inspections revealed severe cracks in concrete, corrosion in steel reinforcing bars and other damage that prompted replacing the bridges despite the fact that a complete overhaul is anticipated at some point in the next decade.

The new bridges will replace the span that carries traffic northbound on Highway 45 through the interchange, the ramp carrying traffic from northbound Highway 45 to westbound I-94 and the ramp connecting southbound Highway 45 to eastbound I-94.


Talkbacks

speakthetruth | Jan. 6, 2010 at 9:53 p.m. (report)

That Hwy 41 corridor would be improved if huge swaths of houses were razed and replaced with concrete roadways. All of you tree huggers are so misguided. The answer isn't light rail, buses, or car pooling. The answer is changing the mindset of employers that employees have to be "in" the office to get work done. Let people work from home, save fuel, eliminate traffic, and cut down on unnecessary office space. It won't work for health care, public safety, etc. but it would work for almost all major corporations in terms of office staff. Any suggestion otherwise is simply short-sighted and based upon a deep-rooted resistance to change.

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45rowen67 | Jan. 6, 2010 at 12:57 a.m. (report)

Actually, the Zoo is more costly than the Marquette by a factor of three, to more than $2 billion, and carries more traffic, so the hassle will be longer and worse.

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Hckyboy00 | Jan. 5, 2010 at 10:56 a.m. (report)

to be fair gliess, what are you going to do? Milwaukee is too spread out, and doesn't have dense enough a population to warrant a light rail system. I'll listen day and night to ways to improve the MCTS, but there isn't enough ridership to enlarge the system. nor would more routes, or cheaper prices help the matter. It's simply too convenient to get anywhere by car to put up a light rail system. Even during rush hour, i can get from the east side to brookfield (the longest in terms of time spent stopped freeway traffic) in probably 40 minutes. Until Milwaukee goes the way of the Jetsons, i don;t think anybody will be happy enough with how lucky we are to have the little traffic problems that we do, and even then, i'm sure they willfind something else to complain about.

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gleiss | Jan. 4, 2010 at 9:39 a.m. (report)

Why does an intersection need to waste as much land as this project or the Marquette interchange? It is exactly this inefficient, underutilization of land that erodes the tax base expected to pay for all of this continued pavement addiction. Heaven forbid we install a more efficient form a transportation to lessen the demand for the "freeways".

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Bad Idea Jeans | Jan. 4, 2010 at 9:08 a.m. (report)

How exactly would extending 41 help the neighborhood? Would drivers roll down their windows and throw cash out while they whizz past? It's always easy to suggest razing neighborhoods when you don't live in them.

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