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Morning commute snarled by back-up from Van Buren/Jackson exit eastbound

Two lanes backed up with morning commute traffic exiting at Van Buren on I-794 eastbound.
Two lanes backed up with morning commute traffic exiting at Van Buren on I-794 eastbound.
Charlie's Digital

A highway planner might easily have overlooked that closing the Lakeshore exit from I-794 eastbound would cause traffic to back up all the way to the edge of Marquette University. But during peak periods of the morning week-day commute, traffic displaced from the Lakeshore exit to Van Buren-Jackson can fill two lanes of traffic all the way back to the lane bringing traffic from I-43 southbound to I-794 eastbound.

Since the lane from I-43 southbound merges into the two lanes coming straight through from I-94, this has brought traffic to a standstill some mornings. Once a vehicle gets far enough east to ease to the right into the third lane coming off I-43 northbound (which is also I-94 westbound at that point), thru traffic to the Hoan Bridge can bypass the back-up of exiting commuters to downtown. But its a long slow wait to get that chance.

For traffic coming from I-94 eastbound, one alternative is to exit to 6th Street or St. Paul Avenue, a little before the most congested stretch of freeway. Drivers heading to destinations east of the Milwaukee River bridges will have a mile or more to drive on surface streets, but will have more options than waiting for the traffic lights at the foot of the Van Buren off ramp.

Commuters going on to Bayview, Cudahy, or South Milwaukee, would face a lot more delays using this option, although when back-ups are really long, one option is to take Michigan Street east to Broadway, turn right, and take the on ramp back onto I-794, east of the Van Buren exit.

Resurfacing of the Hoan Bridge over the next two years will leave only three lanes for traffic. Wisconsin Department of Transportation plans to use a moveable barrier to provide two lanes northbound during morning commute hours, and two lanes southbound during evening commutes.