Driving on Interstate 94 through Racine County these days is, to put it bluntly, nerve-wracking.
Three lanes of vehicles, packed as tight as possible without scraping paint off each other, all traveling at least 70 mph and — we’ve all seen it happening — 80 mph, and faster.
One of those lanes is in what normally would be the shoulder, so there is no margin for error.
In long stretches of the journey through Racine County, the only things separating the northbound traffic from the southbound traffic are temporary construction medians, and those can be pushed by southbound traffic into the path of northbound traffic and vice versa.
We learned that with tragic circumstances on June 19. Two semitrailer drivers were killed in a five-vehicle crash which resulted when a northbound semi crashed into a temporary construction median, pushing the structure into the northbound lanes and the path of northbound cars that hit the median. A northbound semi then veered off the roadway in an attempt to avoid the wreckage and went over an overpass wall. Both semi-trailers caught fire.
Thankfully, no one died on the morning of June 28 when two semitrailers collided just north of the Racine-Milwaukee county line.
But because the June 28 accident involved hazardous materials, the inconvenience was massive and widespread: Highway 20 rarely comes up on Chicago traffic reports, but when the complete closure of I-94 northbound led to a traffic backup of 15 miles in length, Windy City listeners heard mention of Highway 20 along with commute times on the Dan Ryan Expressway.
Caledonia police officers ended up directing traffic on Highway 38 near Seven Mile Road that afternoon, as so many motorists were getting off the interstate and trying to find alternate routes to Milwaukee and other points north.
There’s got to be a better way. We shouldn’t have to white-knuckle it on I-94 until we hit the curve north of the Racine County line.
Some of this is on us: We should all make a conscious effort to not follow the vehicle ahead of us so closely, and to not weave from lane to lane.
We need to remember that. while this situation exists, the margin for error in driving is close to zero.
But some of this is beyond the control of the individual motorist. This is where government intervention becomes necessary.
We urge Gov. Tony Evers to talk to top officials at the Department of Transportation about the current state of I-94 in Racine County. Reducing the number of lanes from three each way to two each way for the rest of the summer should be considered.
It would obviously lengthen travel times, but it could reduce the danger as well.
When accidents happen on I-94 these days, at best. it’s 15-mile-long backups and village roads flooded with vehicles seeking an alternate route.
At worst, it’s deadly.