Although I live in Bay View just off the I-794 “bridge to nowhere,” my travels often take me around the state. Leaving the city requires me to ignore my love for public transit and utilize the Interstate system. After growing up in the suburbs I have a decent grasp on the routes, but recently I saw some new signs that took me for a loop.
As if one stretch of road being designated as Highway 41 (South), Interstate 894 (East), and Interstate 43 (North) was not confusing enough, Wisconsin now officially has an Interstate 41. The 3,000 new blue shields (costing a cool $5-$7 million) for this 176-mile stretch have been placed from Illinois to Green Bay, curving around the west bank of Lake Winnebago.
The Wisconsin DOT‘s quoted aim for the federal government to approve such a designation was four-fold:
1) Bring economic growth along the newly designated corridor
Many businesses will only consider building within a certain distance of an Interstate. In addition, Interstates can use their status when asking the federal government for more money.
2) Increase the safety of the road for people and vehicles
Interstates require entrances and exits to be at safer interchanges, not at-grade. In addition, Interstates have stricter regulations on bridge clearances, median guards, roadside slopes, and shoulder widths.
3) Create a corridor identity
This seems like more of a stretch.
4) Bring broader benefits to the state of Wisconsin
Okay, now WIDOT just ran out of ideas but their boss said they needed 4 reasons.
It’s all very confusing. Just look at that Milwaukee map: US41 becomes US175, I94/I43/US41 drops the US41, US45 becomes US45/US41/I41, and as shown at the beginning of this article you can simultaneously be going South, North, East, and South again for good measure.
As a general citizen, the only benefit I really expect to see is the possibility of the speed limit on the old highway rising to 70 mph outside of Milwaukee. But I doubt many will see a day-to-day difference, besides confusing signs, thanks to the newly-minted I-41 in Wisconsin.