Interstate 894 – Wisconsin
Interstate 894 provides a bypass to the southwest of Milwaukee while acting as a commuter route to several major suburbs. I-894 is co-signed with I-41/43 on the south leg of the Bypass. That portion is known as the Airport Freeway. Cosigned with I-41 and U.S. 45, the western leg of I-894 follows the Zoo Freeway.
Major interchanges in the Milwaukee area are formally named. Those along I-894 include the Zoo Interchange with I-41-U.S. 45 and I-94, named for adjacent Milwaukee County Zoo; the Hale Interchange with I-43 leading southwest from Hale Corners; and the Mitchell Interchange with I-94, derived from nearby General Mitchell International Airport (MKE).
Zoo Interchange Project
Starting in 2012, an overhaul at the Zoo Interchange reconfigured the exchange to eliminate left exits in all directions. The centerpiece of the largest transportation project in Wisconsin state history was the construction of a four-level systems interchange at I-41, I-94 and I-894. The $1.7-billion project also rebuilt I-94 west to South 108th Street (Exit 304), I-94 east to South 84th Street (Exit 306), I-41 north to Watertown Plank Road (Exit 40) and I-41/894 south to Greenfield Avenue (Exit 1D). The associated roadways leading to and from the Zoo Interchange were upgraded to remove weaving traffic patterns.
The last of the ramps at the Zoo Interchange opened to traffic in the week following a ribbon cutting ceremony celebrating completion of the Core project on August 27, 2018. The overall project is not yet complete, as work remains on the reconstruction of Interstate 41 between North Swan Boulevard and Burleigh Street. Costing $232.6 million, the north leg of the project extends through at least 2023.5
- East End – Milwaukee, WI
North End – Milwaukee, WI
- Mileage – 4.70 (9.92)1
Cities – Milwaukee, West Allis, Greenfield
- Junctions –
Source: December 31, 2018 Interstate Route Log and Finders List
Original plans took the Stadium Freeway south from National Avenue to Interstate 894 (Airport Freeway). The directional T interchange with I-894 was partially completed and a portion of it later repurposed as bus ramps to the Loomis Road Park & Ride lot. Those ramps were permanently closed in 2011.
The Hale Interchange Maintenance Project involved work on bridges and ramps between November 2014 and Summer 2015. Work included replacement of bridge expansion joints and bridge polymer overlays.4
The Zoo Freeway, opened to traffic between County Trunk Highway T (Beloit Road) and Interstate 94 in 1963. The remainder of the freeway south to the Hale Interchange (I-43 / old Wis 15) and east to the Mitchell Interchange (I-94) followed in 1966. Interstate 43 was extended southwest via the former Wis 15 freeway toward Beloit officially on November 24, 1987, with signage erected in the following year.1
Escalating construction costs in 2003 associated with the massive rebuild of the Marquette Interchange in Downtown Milwaukee, where I-43, I-94 and I-794 converge, included several cost cutting ideas touted by then major John Norquist. A scaled down interchange revamp developed by city engineers would save $361 million by only moving one of the left-hand ramps at the busy Downtown junction. Coupled with that was a renumbering plan proposed by the mayor that might offset traffic through the exchange. The plan included rerouting I-94 over all of Interstate 894, extending I-794 west from the Marquette Interchange to the Zoo Interchange over former I-94, and leaving the North-South Freeway as simply I-43.2 This proposed renumbering was never implemented and the Marquette Interchange was ultimately rebuilt between 2005 and December 2008.
Major construction redesigned the Mitchell Interchange over the course of four years as part of a $300 million project. The work eliminated left exit ramps along Interstate 94 while reconfiguring the adjacent interchange with S 27th Street (Exit 9) to offset weaving traffic patterns along I-43/894. Project elements included 51 bridges, three tunnels and more than 17 sound walls. A ribbon cutting ceremony marked the end of construction on November 9, 2012, with work completed a month and a half ahead of schedule.3
Interstate 41 was approved by AASHTO on November 15, 2012. Signs for the route were erected starting in May 2015. The designation replaces the entirety of U.S. 41 between Rosecrans, Illinois and Green Bay, Wisconsin. I-41 overlays all of I-894, but there are no plans to decommission the 894 designation due to its role as a through route bypass for I-94. The three way overlap between I-41, I-43 and I-894 along the Airport Freeway results in a “wrong way” overlap where I-41 north travels along side I-43 south and vice versa.
East End / Mitchell Interchange – Milwaukee, Wisconsin
South North East at
The six-ramp parclo interchange (Exit 9) with Wis 241 (27th Street) was redesigned as part of the Mitchell Interchange project. The adjacent entrance ramp joins the northbound ramp taking I-43 onto I-94 west while the mainline defaults I-41 south onto I-94 east to the left. Photo by Peter Johnson (05/12/20).
A ramp connecting Wis 241 (27th Street) to I-894 west passes overhead as the mainline advances one mile to Wis 119 east (Exit 318) and College Avenue (Exit 319). Wis 119 is a short freeway joining I-41/94 with General Mitchell International Airport (MKE) while College Avenue runs east to Wis 794 (Pennsylvania Avenue) and west to Wis 36 (Loomis Road) near Glendale. Photo by Peter Johnson (07/05/16).
North West at
The cloverleaf interchange with Layton Avenue was reconfigured into a diamond as part of the Mitchell Interchange project. Another change involved the relocation of the 27th Street off-ramp, which is not accessible for motorists taking I-41 north from I-94 west. Instead they are directed onto Exit 316 for Layton Avenue west to make the connection. 06/13/15
South East at
East End Throwback
North East at
Originally two lanes took I-43 north onto I-94/U.S. 41 north to Downtown Milwaukee while two lanes carried motorists onto I-94/U.S. 41 south toward Chicago, Illinois.
This scene changed dramatically with expansion of the Airport Freeway to eight overall lanes and the revision of Exit 9 into a directional interchange. 09/02/05
South East at
North End – Milwaukee, Wisconsin
North West at
Wis 100 connects I-94 with the adjacent Milwaukee County Zoo at Exit 304. The State Trunk Highway constitutes an arterial beltway encircling Milwaukee on a 270 degree loop. It merges with the Zoo Freeway on the northwest side, entering Waukesha County at Menomonee Falls. Photo by Peter Johnson (05/12/20).
North End Throwback
West North at
I-41 south combines with I-894 east to the Hale Interchange, where I-43 north joins along the Airport Freeway leading east back into Milwaukee. Signs were updated in Summer 2015 to reflect the changeover of U.S. 41 to I-41 between Pleasant Prairie at the Illinois state line, and the north end of I-43 at Green Bay. 05/30/11
Separate ramps departed for I-894 east and U.S. 45 south from the right and to U.S. 45 north from the left at the original Zoo Interchange. 09/02/05, 05/30/11
- Interstate 894 (Chris Bessert) – visit Chris’s excellent page for more information on the co-signed section of Interstate 43 and Interstate 894 as well as information on the history of Interstate 894. Chris also notes a discrepancy in total mileage of Interstate 894 (including the Interstate 43 overlap): the Wisconsin Department of Transportation records show 9.92 miles in length.
- “Norquist freeway plan diverts traffic.” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, January 23, 2003.
- “Ribbon cutting held for completed Mitchell Interchange project.” Fox6 (Milwaukee), November 9, 2012.
- “Short-term closure: Hale Interchange ramp to WIS 100 to close Monday, July 6th.” Fox6 (Milwaukee), July 2, 2015.
- “Scott Walker declares Zoo Interchange is done, even as years of work remain.” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (WI), August 28, 2018.
Page updated May 14, 2020.