In order to make feelings known, speaking out is required.
In a resolution passed by the Wauwatosa Common Council Feb. 21, city officials told the Wisconsin State Legislature that they need to finish the Zoo Interchange project, most notably, the "north leg" of the project that has been designated for delay in Gov. Walker's proposed budget.
The north leg is Interstate 41/Highway 45 from approximately Watertown Plank Road to Burleigh Street. This $200 million portion of the Zoo Interchange overhaul was slated to be completed by 2020; the budget proposed by Walker would delay it for two years to 2022.
"We've been assured that if we don't say anything our voice will not be heard," Wauwatosa City Administrator Jim Archambo said. "Our biggest concern is the impact on other projects and the continued rerouting of traffic on our streets."
Due to the Zoo Interchange project, streets in Wauwatosa such as Bluemound Road, Watertown Plank Road and North Avenue have been bearing the burden of increased traffic and Archambo said that is taking a toll on the roads. In addition, Archambo said the city cannot make a plan for the much-needed rebuild of North Avenue until the north leg is completed.
"We had planned around a certain schedule," City Attorney Alan Kesner said. "At the same time (North Avenue) is in bad shape. We would approach it differently if it is two years versus more."
Archambo cited a 2016 citizen survey conducted by the city that said that citizens were acutely concerned about traffic in Wauwatosa. He said that due to the Zoo Interchange project, vehicle usage on Wauwatosa streets near I-41/Highway 45 is up from pre-construction levels between 63 and 109 percent.
In late February, the city sent a letter to the state Legislature urging them to move forward without delay on the north leg of the Zoo Interchange project due to the adverse impact the delay would have on the traffic in the city. The resolution passed by the council was attached.
"Therefore be it resolved that appropriate city officials are hereby authorized to send a letter on behalf of the Wauwatosa City Council," the resolution said, "urging the governor, state senators and state representatives to move forward without delay in moving toward completion of the North Leg of the Zoo Interchange Project."
Rep. Rob Hutton (R-Brookfield), who represents the city of Wauwatosa as part of Assembly District 13, said he is supportive of the message the council has sent out.
“I am acutely aware of the importance of the north leg of the Zoo Interchange to the continued economic development of the surrounding area," Hutton said. "This is especially critical considering the remarkable level of commercial and retail development which continues to take place. In meeting with citizens and community leaders in the 13th Assembly District, they have indicated to me the critical nature of the north leg’s timely completion in the continued economic development in that region.”
Hutton said he sent a letter before the governor’s budget was finalized, asking him to adopt language within the budget to keep the north leg of the Zoo Interchange on schedule, and that he will continue to advocate that this project not be delayed from its current timeline.
Wisconsin Department of Transportation Southeast region spokesman Mike Pyritz said his organization will make plans when a decision is made regarding the north leg.
"We really don't know what is going to occur as the deliberations are ongoing," Pyritz said. "We are going to wait and see what the budget tells us to do."