Possible Fifth Interstate Interchange
Posted: August 8, 2014
I was talking to a friend last week who asked me what I thought would be the next big development in the City of Eau Claire. After sharing a few ideas, I thought about the discussion that occurred about 20 years ago when it appeared that a fifth interstate interchange might be developed on the city's west side near Cameron Street.
Then I received the agenda for this past week's City of Eau Claire Plan Commission, which included an item about the city's purchase of a 2.3-acre tract of land that could prepare for a possible fifth interchange. The Plan Commission approved the acquisition and the city council will act on the item at its August 12th meeting.
I remember that one of the biggest proponents of having another interstate access point was Mayo Clinic Health System. They had just acquired the former Luther Hospital and were on record at the time of claiming that they were in favor of having another interchange for safety reasons. Obviously, if there was another interchange at Cameron Street, it would be easier for emergency vehicles to come down Cameron Street to their Luther Campus on Bellinger Street.
I called Mayo Clinic this week to determine if they had any interest about commenting on the new interchange and they declined. However, even though I don't have any hard evidence, I believe Eau Claire would be the only city in the country with less than 70,000 people with five interstate access points.
I think it would be a shame if it took 10-15 years to develop another interstate interchange. In my opinion, another interchange would spur more economic development and assist one of the city's local hospitals with another option to transport patients.
RANDOM THOUGHT: This week's announcement about the $10 million donation from the Sonnentags, who own County Materials, is another example of how this area is benefitting from the generosity of UW-Eau Claire Blugold alumni. The project, in its early stages, would help the area economy by having the ability to host larger events that have not considered Eau Claire in the past because the city didn't have the facilities to accommodate the groups. Hopefully it won't take more than five years to design and build the new events center because Zorn Arena, which was constructed in 1951, is outdated and needs to be replaced.
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