4/24/2017, Racine Journal Times – Local business leaders are calling for the state Legislature to keep Interstate 94 construction on track, saying it is critical for the county’s economic development.
Racine Area Manufacturers and Commerce said completing the I-94 north-south project, which extends from the Illinois state line to General Mitchell International Airport, is long overdue. The group joins a chorus of other local leaders who have pressed for continuing the project after Gov. Scott Walker left it out of his proposed state budget.
Walker has shown few signs he will agree to reinstating the project in the budget. He didn’t answer directly when asked last week about doing so, though he appeared to leave the door open if more money is added for transportation.
“For us, we want it to keep moving forward. If we can put more resources in this budget, that would certainly be a priority for us, as well as … maintaining local support at similar levels to what we proposed,” Walker said after a bill signing in Burlington at Veterans Terrace, 589 Milwaukee Ave. “County officials will tell you it’s real important, not only I-94, but it’s important to have dollars to fix county and municipal roads and bridges here and across the state.”
“I-94 north-south is obviously an important corridor,” he added. “We see it with the recent job announcements we’ve seen in Kenosha, Racine and southern Milwaukee counties, and we’d like to see that grow.”
RAMAC said companies looking at places for new facilities consistently rank highway access a top priority. That’s particularly true for businesses considering the DeBack Farms Business Park, under development on Highway K near I-94, the group said.
“We have watched the number of new businesses relocating to Kenosha, where the Interstate has been rebuilt and expanded, and we believe Racine is poised to undergo the same kind of economic boom,” said Matt Montemurro, RAMAC president and chief executive officer.
“It’s time to finish the job.”
Alternative plan in works
Walker’s budget is in the hands of the state Legislature. The state budget committee has dropped the governor’s transportation plan from the budget, with committee co-chair Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, telling reporters Friday that “everything is on the table” for transportation funding, according to media reports.
RAMAC leaders said increased traffic congestion, safety issues, pavement and design deficiencies and three prior resurfacings necessitate expansion and full reconstruction of the I-94 north-south corridor.
The group noted work began in 2009 in Milwaukee and Kenosha counties continued until delays in 2011. In Racine County, the Highway 20 interchange reconstruction was completed in 2015, but reconstruction of interchanges at Highway 11, Highway K and 7 Mile Road remain.
“Finishing the I-94 north-south project is directly linked to the success and growth of my company and the broader Racine business community,” Dave Eberle, owner of Norco Manufacturing, said in a RAMAC release. “Completion of the project enables me to reliably move products, and plan for future growth. It is time for the state to set a completion date for the reconstruction of the north-south project.”
Norco Manufacturing is the first company to build in the developing DeBack Farms Business Park.