Frequently Asked Questions

Find answers to frequently asked questions about the I-794 Lake Interchange Study.

This page will continue to be updated as the study advances.
Who is conducting the I-794 Lake Interchange Study?
Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s (WisDOT) Southeast Region initiated the study in 2022 in partnership with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).
What are the limits of the study?
The Lake Interchange Study is evaluating alternatives for the I-794 freeway corridor, generally from the Milwaukee River to the Hoan Bridge. The Lake Interchange is located between the Marquette Interchange (where I-94, I-43 and I-794 meet) and the Hoan Bridge. This stretch of I-794 connects Milwaukee’s freeway system to downtown Milwaukee, the Historic Third Ward, Milwaukee’s Lakefront, Port Milwaukee and communities along the north shore and south shore.
Why is WisDOT studying this corridor?
The purpose of the study is to address deteriorating infrastructure in a manner that improves safety and operations on I-794 generally from the Milwaukee River to the Hoan Bridge, while also striving to enhance community connectivity and compatibility with local plans and development. The study is driven by a number of project needs:
  • Aging Infrastructure: There are 28 original bridge units in the study area that were constructed in the 1970s that are approaching the end of their useful life.
  • Community Connectivity: There is an opportunity to increase community connectivity and enhance activation within Milwaukee’s downtown and the Historic Third Ward neighborhoods, and improve the compatibility of transportation infrastructure with local plans and development for the Lake Interchange corridor.
  • System Linkages: I-794 connects Milwaukee’s freeway system to downtown Milwaukee, the Historic Third Ward, Milwaukee’s Lakefront, Port Milwaukee and communities along the north shore and south shore.
  • Roadway Deficiencies: Several areas have been identified on the existing facility where roadway design standards are not met, contributing to safety concerns along the corridor.
  • Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety: Bicycle and pedestrian travel is an important travel mode within the study area. There is a lack of continuous non-motorist infrastructure on the local street network and there are multiple five-legged intersections which create potentially unsafe conflict points between pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists.
  • Traffic Safety: The crash rate on the I-794 mainline from the Marquette Interchange to the Hoan Bridge exceeds the four-lane freeway statewide average during the five-year analysis period of 2016 to 2020.
What is the current status and overall schedule for the study?
WisDOT hosted the first set of open house public involvement meetings on August 1 and August 2, 2023. The meetings were an opportunity for the public to understand the study process, learn about the project’s draft purpose and need, and provide input on preliminary design concepts. Materials and exhibits shown at the meetings are available for the public to view by visiting the outreach page here .
The current study phase will offer several opportunities for the public to engage with WisDOT on the review of alternatives for the corridor. WisDOT is using the feedback received and further analysis to refine the initial nine design concepts presented and advance at least one alternative from each concept group: Replace In Kind, Freeway Improvement and Freeway Removal. The environmental review process is anticipated to be complete in 2025, and will identify a preferred alternative. Following the completion of the environmental document, the project will move into final design and construction pending approvals and funding availability.
What is the existing traffic on the I-794 Lake Interchange?
The mainline (eastbound and westbound) annual average of daily traffic in 2022 was 73,900 vehicles at the Milwaukee River, with trucks making up 3.1%, and 42,500 vehicles at the Hoan Bridge, with trucks making up 3.7%. I-794 is an important route for freight and delivery to and from Port Milwaukee. Port Milwaukee handles 2.3 million metric tons of cargo and estimates between 75,000 to 100,000 truck trips every year.
Will the I-794 freeway be removed?
At this early stage of the study, no decisions have been made. Freeway Removal Concepts, which would remove the interstate designation and utilize the at-grade street network, are currently being evaluated alongside Replace In Kind and Freeway Improvement Concepts. Alternatives will be evaluated based on purpose and need, stakeholder feedback, impacts, constructability, costs and other factors.
Will the Hoan Bridge be removed?
None of the concepts being evaluated include the full removal of the Hoan Bridge. Some concepts would impact/reconstruct portions of the Hoan Bridge at the north end, but all concepts keep the bridge elevated above the Milwaukee Harbor, Henry Maier Festival Park and Jones Island as it is today.
How much potential land is available with the different concepts?
All the proposed concepts could make land available for potential development that meets the minimum development requirements. Conceptual estimates for potential available land have been developed for each concept.
  • The Replace In Kind Concept provides 2.7 acres of land suitable for development.
  • The Freeway Improvement Concepts could create between 3.6 to 6.3 acres meeting minimum development requirements.
  • The Freeway Removal Concepts could create 15.4 to 18.3 acres meeting minimum development requirements.
There are additional acres of potential available land in the Freeway Improvement and Freeway Removal Concepts that do not meet minimum development requirements. You can see the available land with each concept here.