According to Ehuacom, Milwaukee is the largest city in the state of Wisconsin in the United States. The city has 569,000 inhabitants and an agglomeration of 1,566,000 inhabitants (2021). However, the metropolitan area is dwarfed by nearby Chicago.
According to mcat-test-centers, Milwaukee is located on Lake Michigan on the eastern side of the state of Wisconsin. The city is built in an almost perfect grid, and has straight municipal boundaries almost everywhere. This also applies to most suburbs. The city has a fairly large metropolitan area, which merges into that of Chicago fairly unnoticed. Some parts of the Chicago metropolitan area are closer to downtown Milwaukee than Chicago. South of Milwaukee are several larger towns on Lake Michigan that form the transition area between the two conurbations. The conurbation measures approximately 55 kilometers from north to south and 35 kilometers from east to west. In addition to Lake Michigan, the city is also located on the Menomonee River.
Like many northern Midwestern cities, Milwaukee has lost population, but nothing spectacular. In 1960 a population of 741,000 inhabitants was reached, after which this fell to 595,000 in 2010. However, the decline has slowed down after 1990. Milwaukee has fairly warm summers but cold winters, and is the coldest city of the 50 largest cities in the country after Minneapolis.
Milwaukee’s highway network.
Milwaukee has a fairly small highway network for the size of the metropolitan area. However, this is partly compensated by the fact that the street network has been well developed. I-43 comes from the southwest and heads north. I-94 comes from the west, and runs south, a rather unique situation, because it’s in the way of Lake Michigan. I-794 provides a short connection between downtown and an industrial zone on Lake Michigan. I-43, I-94 and I-794 converge at the Marquette Interchange. I-894 forms a bypass southwest of Milwaukee. US 45 also forms part of that bypass. US 41 is the northwest approach road. However, a good ring road is missing, but the traffic intensities are not extremely high.
Milwaukee was one of the larger cities in the United States where no highway-like roads were built before World War II, although nearby Chicago also had no highways and was a lot bigger. The urban area had 1 million inhabitants in 1950, but all traffic had to be handled on the city roads. In the early years after World War II, traffic in Milwaukee doubled, and studies were conducted in the early 1950s on highways similar to those developed elsewhere in the country. In 1952 a small network of freeways, 35 kilometers long, was proposed, costing about $150 million. Immediately after, construction began on the first highway, a short stretch that replaced 43rd Street near Milwaukee County Stadium (State Route 341).). The highway and stadium opened to traffic in 1953. The Milwaukee County Expressway Commission was also established that year.
The first thing the Milwaukee County Expressway Commission did was draft a highway plan, released in 1955, with projected completion in 1972 at a cost of $221 million at the time. A year later, the Interstate Highway system was created, and a number of projected highways were incorporated as Interstate Highways, especially I-94 west and south of downtown, a stretch of I-43 along and north of downtown, and I- 894 as a western bypass for north-south traffic. On September 4, 1958, Wisconsin’s first Interstate Highway opened in the Waukesha suburb. Construction of new highways then started quickly, especially between 1962 and 1967 many new highways opened, on average 15 kilometers per year. Since Milwaukee was already a fairly large city, significant areas of built-up area had to be purchased for highway construction.
By 1967, substantial portions of the Milwaukee highway network were completed and 13 highways were planned by the Milwaukee County Expressway and Transportation Commission;
- Airport Freeway (I-894) as an east-west route in southern Milwaukee
- Airport Spur (SR-119) as a link road to the airport in southern Milwaukee
- Bay Freeway (SR-16) as an east-west route through northern Milwaukee
- Belt Freeway as western and southern bypass of Milwaukee
- East-West Freeway (I-94) as an east-west route from Milwaukee to Madison
- Fond Du Lac Freeway (SR-145) from downtown to the northwest
- Lake Freeway (I-794), a north-south route along Lake Michigan, from downtown to Chicago
- North-South Freeway (I-43/I-94) as a north-south route along the west side of downtown throughout the city
- Park Freeway as an east-west route from downtown to the Stadium Freeway
- Rock Freeway (I-43) as an east-west route from the Airport Freeway to Beloit
- Stadium Freeway (US 41) as a north-south route through the western boroughs of Milwaukee
- West Bend Freeway as a north-south route west of the North-South Freeway in the north of the region
- Zoo Freeway (I-894) as a north-south route in the western suburbs
From the late 1960s, opposition to freeways increased, causing many plans to be scrapped in the early 1970s. The construction speed decreased sharply after 1969, to an average of 3 kilometers per year. In particular, there was opposition to the construction of highways in existing urban areas. In a referendum in 1967, however, there was still a clear majority to build the highways in Milwaukee. In particular, the Lake Freeway and the Fond Du Lac Freeway were scrapped fairly quickly. In 1974, 98 kilometers of the planned 180 kilometers of highway had been completed. This amounted to 54% of the planned lane kilometers.
In 1974 a second referendum was held to build five highways. The referendum was held in a wider area – 5 counties, and was approved by the population. Remarkably, in the neighborhoods where there was the most vocal opposition to the construction of highways, 3 out of 5 cases still voted for the construction of the highways. Despite this, political opposition to the construction of new highways increased, and in the late 1970s, highway construction more or less came to a halt, as was the case in many American cities. No new highways were opened at all between 1977 and 1987. In particular, the Belt Freeway and the West Bend Freeway died a silent death, none of which have been built. The Bay Freeway also did not enter a concrete phase.
Stagnation and population decline in both the city of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County made the construction of new highways less urgent in the 1980s and 1990s. In 2002-2003, the only constructed mile of the Park Freeway on the north side of Downtown was demolished and replaced by a city road with traffic lights. Since the rest of the route was not built, the Park Freeway was nothing more than a glorified exit from I-43.
Although the population of the region stagnated, traffic gradually increased, so that the traffic jams slowly increased in size. In the mid-1990s, a study was conducted by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to improve Milwaukee’s highways, but not much came of it. An exception was the large-scale reconstruction of the Marquette Interchange between I-43, I-94 and I-794 on the outskirts of Downtown between 2004 and 2008. This was the largest reconstruction project in Wisconsin history at the time. In 2015, US 41 (Stadium Freeway) was renumbered as State Route 175. US 41 was also routed over the west ring, which is also double-numbered with Interstate 41. Through southern Milwaukee, three Interstate Highways over the Airport Freeway have since been numbered, I-41, I-43, and I-894.
Because there are not that many highways, which are often outdated, there are regular traffic jams in Milwaukee. However, the situation is not nearly as serious as in Chicago, for example. In addition, Milwaukee has very little through traffic, as it usually takes I-90 through Madison, Rockford and Chicago. Crowds are mostly near downtown and on I-894.