The State of Wisconsin said Monday it would pay more than $13 million for new Milwaukee County bus routes to help with congestion during the massive Zoo Interchange reconstruction, settling a 2-year-old lawsuit.
The lawsuit, brought by the Black Health Coalition of Wisconsin and the Milwaukee Inner-city Congregations Allied for Hope, alleged that the $1.7 billion expansion of the Zoo Interchange, the state's busiest, discriminated against urban minorities by not including public transit improvements.
Last year, federal Judge Lynn Adelman allowed work on the project to move forward but said the lawsuit would likely succeed.
Dennis Grzezinski, an attorney for MICAH and the Black Health Coalition, had no comment on a settlement other than to say that he was waiting for details to be completed.
According to the Department of Transportation, the state will:
■ Pay up to $11.5 million over four years for the bus routes. The routes haven't yet been developed, but they will ease congestion and focus on transporting workers between Milwaukee and suburban communities.
■ Spend $2 million over four years to transit providers to help enhance services. This could include real-time route information or outreach to boost ridership.
"The routes will support the department's Traffic Management Plan for the project, facilitating our commitment to minimize the impacts of construction on travelers, residents and businesses," DOT Secretary Mark Gottlieb said in a release.
The reconstruction of the Zoo Interchange is scheduled to begin in 2015 and finish in 2018. Work to boost capacity on nearby arterials and interchanges is in progress.
The settlement was negotiated in court-sponsored mediation.
The Black Health Coalition had no comment on the settlement. Milwaukee Inner-city Congregations Allied for Hope did not respond immediately to requests for comment.
Up for discussion Tuesday at the Milwaukee County Transportation, Public Works and Transit Committee meeting is a new reverse commute express route, Route 279, which would be paid for with the settlement money. Route 279 would run along Fond du Lac Ave. from central Milwaukee to Park Place business park and the Menomonee Falls industrial park in Waukesha County.
The proposed start date for the route is Aug. 24, according to county documents. The cost of the route for 2014 will be $245,000 and $668,000 in 2015. The service will operate seven days a week during typical start-and-end times over three shifts.
Brian Dranzik, director of Milwaukee County's DOT, said in a letter to the County Board that the route's approval would benefit residents and reduce travel times between northwest Milwaukee County and Waukesha County.
This story originally appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on May 19, 2014 and is available here: http://www.jsonline.com/news/milwaukee/state-to-spend-135-million-on-transit-to-settle-zoo-interchange-suit-b99273749z1-259843881.html