The I-94 North-South Freeway Expansion is a $1.9bn reconstruction project in Kenosha, Racine and Milwaukee counties of southeast Wisconsin. It is the largest road project ever undertaken by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT).
The project aims to relieve traffic congestion and improve the safety of the I-94 North-South Corridor, which stretches 35 miles (56.3km) from the city of Milwaukee to the Illinois state line. The project will widen the corridor from six to eight lanes and redesign 17 interchanges on the corridor.
The construction of the freeway project started in 2009. As of December 2012, the project was 43% complete. It is expected to be fully complete by 2021.
The project is planned to be funded 31.2% by federal government, 68.2% state government and the remaining through local funding.
History of the I-94 North-South corridor
The I-94 North-South corridor had been resurfaced thrice since its original construction over 50 years ago. Increased congestion, high crash rate and outdated traffic design, however, warranted a systemic reconstruction of the corridor.
The plan for reconstruction of the 12 interchanges in the I-94 North-South Freeway was mooted as early as 1996. The South Eastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (SEWRPC) recommended full reconstruction of the corridor in 2003, after a detailed study.
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) started environmental study for the reconstruction project in 2006. The Record of Decision for widening the freeway along with design improvements was approved by the Federal Highway Authority (FHWA) in May 2008. The project started with the reconstruction work in Milwaukee County in 2009.
I-94 N-S freeway expansion project details
The current traffic volumes along the I-94 N-S corridor range between 76,000 vehicles and 161,400 vehicles per day. The reconstruction project aims to expand and improve the corridor in order to efficiently accommodate the current and the anticipated increase in traffic volumes.
The freeway expansion encompasses an array of sub-projects. A total of 349.2mi (561.9km) of the I-94 runs through Wisconsin. The current project will reconstruct 35mi (56.3km) of the highway passing through Kenosha, Racine and Milwaukee counties.
Rebuilding the existing roadway includes construction of an additional lane in both northbound and southbound directions on the mainline. It also includes reconstruction of frontage roads and as many as 17 interchanges within the project limit.
The interchanges that are being improved as part of the project include those in Milwaukee County, Racine County and Kenosha County.
Mitchell Interchange in the Milwaukee County is the most significant redesigning project among all the interchanges.
Wisconsin freeway construction project
The I-94 N-S Freeway expansion is being implemented in phases. The reconstruction of the entire 35mi (56.3km) is scheduled to be completed by 2021.
As of December 2012, certain critical phases of the project including the works of Mitchell, Airport Spur and Layton Ave interchanges were complete.
The projects scheduled for implementation in 2013 are Rawson Ave Interchange Project in the Milwaukee County, County G to WIS 20 Frontage Roads Project in the Racine County, and the I-94 Mainline Project from WIS 50 to WIS 142 in the Kenosha County.
Design changes and traffic Management of I-94 N-S corridor
The 27th Street interchange in Milwaukee County is reconstructed with U-Ramps to improve the traffic flow. The Mitchell Interchange is reconstructed to remove left-hand ramp movements making all entrances and exits from the right, which eliminates confusion. The Airport Spur interchange is reconstructed and landscaped to give a parkway like appearance.
Whereas, the interchanges in Racine/Kenosha that have crisscrossing scissor ramps will be replaced with diamond ramps to separate the frontage roads from the exit/entrance ramps.
Mitchell interchange reconstruction
Mitchell Interchange provides entry to the General Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee County and handles as many as 195,000 vehicles a day. The reconstruction of Mitchell Interchange is a major project within the I-94 North-South freeway project. It was completed by the end of 2012 at a cost of $270m. It involved the construction of 29 new bridges, three tunnels, 52 retaining walls, 16 noise barriers and 83 sign structures.
Integrated 3D model visualisation and 4D simulations were used for better planning and coordination of the Mitchell Interchange’s reconstruction, considering the complex redesigning structure of the interchange.
The construction of the three tunnels was completed by the end of 2011 using cut-and-cover method. The tunnels are 585ft, 744ft and 645ft in length. Each tunnel has a minimum height of 16ft 9in and a travel lane of 12ft width having shoulders on both the left and right sides.
Contractors working on the 94 North-South Freeway Project
The general contractor for the Mitchell Interchange project was a consortium of constructors led by Lunda Construction, Edgerton Contractors and Michels Corporation.
Mortenson, a joint venture of Collins Engineering, Kapur and Associates, DAAR Corporation, and Construction Geotechnical Consultants provided construction management, field inspection, survey and 3D earthwork modelling services for the project.
The design for the Mitchell Interchange was provided by Milwaukee Transportation Partners (MTP), a joint venture of CH2M HILL and HNTB, and WisDOT South East Freeways.
The contractors for other parts of the project include Zignego, CW Purpero, Walsh Construction Group, Highway Landscapers, Zenith Tech, Hoffman, J & A Pohl, Habermehl Electric, and Payne and Dolan.