As an unseasonal snowfall blanketed Milwaukee on Thursday, officials worked to clear the last residents out of a homeless camp under Interstate 794 downtown.
In early October, state officials gave residents of the tent city until the end of the month to leave the site, where as many as 100 people had once been living. The camp was at the southeast corner of North 6th Street and West Clybourn Street, under an I-794 overpass.
Before the Wisconsin Department of Transportation began passing out notices urging people staying at the camp to leave by Thursday, dozens of tents had sprung up there this summer. Michael Pyritz, a spokesman for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, said WisDOT needs access to the land, which it owns, in case of an emergency and to conduct periodic bridge testing.
WisDOT and city officials have worked with Milwaukee County over the past month to find housing for people staying under the highway.
“It’s not safe,” Pyritz said. “If something happens, we may need to get in there in one hour, or in 100 days.”
Plans are emerging, meanwhile, to use the site for a so-called Green Infrastructure project meant to reduce the amount of polluted stormwater runoff that enters nearby waterways. The site under 794 could play a role in a proposed “green” project meant to provide about 36 million gallons of additional storm-water storage by 2030.
The city is planning to use money it receives from the Metropolitan Milwaukee Sewerage District’s green-solutions program. MMSD has picked Strand Associates to begin preliminary analyses and propose how the site might best be used.
Brian DeNeve, a spokesman for the Milwaukee Department of Public Works, said on Thursday that he wasn’t aware of testing or other work that was scheduled to occur at the site in the near future.