November 10, 2023
By Lane Kimble
WAUWATOSA, Wis. — With eight lanes of traffic flowing smoothly over his shoulder, Tony Straseske used a fitting noun to describe the Zoo Interchange project.
“People have sacrificed a lot… to deliver this big animal,” Straseske said.
“A lot of hours, a lot of weekends, a lot of nights, a lot of missed basketball games and concerts with your children and opportunities to vacation.”
The Michels Road and Stone Senior Project Manager was one of several hundred people on-hand Thursday afternoon in Wauwatosa to honor those sacrifices as the state celebrated the completion of the final portion – the North Leg – of the Zoo Interchange.
It’s work on a massive $1.5 billion project that goes back at least a decade.
While portions and sections wrapped up as the years ticked by, state budget constraints led to delays and frustration.
Upon taking office in 2019, Gov. Tony Evers’ administration placed the Zoo as a top priority to get back on track and complete.
“There are arteries in this state that are so critical to the entire state that were at the end of their useful life and they had to get done. And there’s none more important than the north leg of the Zoo and the Zoo Interchange as a whole,” WisDOT Secretary Craig Thompson said.
Even with delays, Thompson says the project came in $200 million under budget.
Thompson noted more than 180,000 jobs are based within two miles of the interchange.
About 7 million trucks pass through every year, carrying $20 billion of freight.
“I am pleased to see this final leg of the State of Wisconsin’s Zoo Interchange Project cross the finish line to begin serving not just our residents but our commuters and our visitors,” Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley said.
As one of the prime contractors handling the work, Straseske is proud of Michels’ contribution (paving every portion of the Interchange) to the people of Wisconsin. That meant plenty of sacrifice and a drive to help others that he won’t easily cage.
“I’m looking forward to the next job,” Straseske admitted. “The biggest reward for me was being able to build these relationships (with other companies) and know that we can team together to tackle those big challenges.”