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State settles Zoo Interchange claims

To resolve claims resulting from the Zoo Interchange project, the state of Wisconsin has agreed to spend $13.5 million in the next four years to expand public transportation.

The settlement – reached with Milwaukee Inner-City Congregations Allied for Hope Inc. and the Black Health Coalition of Wisconsin Inc. – was announced Monday in a news release from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.

Under the terms of the settlement, the state, over a four-year period, will spend up to $11.5 million on bus routes and provide $2 million to transit companies for additional services.

According to WisDOT’s release, the settlement money will be used to ease traffic congestion. The exact details of the routes and potential services have not yet been decided, but, according to the release, real-time transit route information or public outreach campaigns may be possibilities.

Both organizations had filed suit in August 2012 against WisDOT and the Federal Highway Administration, alleging that officials discriminated against urban minorities by not including public transit improvements in the Zoo Interchange project. They also argued the project will “have the likely effect of exacerbating regional racial segregation, and it will have adverse environmental effects on air quality and water resources.”

The agreement – which was reached during mediation between WisDOT and both organizations – has not yet been signed by U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman, who is presiding over the case in the Western District of Wisconsin, according to court records.

Attorneys and representatives from both organizations did not immediately return phone calls Monday.

While the main Zoo Interchange project isn’t slated to begin until 2015, arterial projects already are underway. The interchange includes the crossroads of Interstate-94, I-894 and U.S. Highway 45. The project is expected to be completed by the end of 2018.

About Eric Heisig

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