If you live anywhere near the intersection of I-94 and I-894/Hwy 45 you probably received the latest edition of the Zoo Interchange Newsletter, as did I. It is full of maps and handy information about the progress of this massive--and massively disruptive--construction project. In addition the practical information about which ramps and roads are currently closed or under construction, you can learn about carpooling options and how much recycling the WisDOT is doing.
Did you know, for example, that the DOT "anticipates recycling the equivalent of 4,000 dump trucks full of concrete" in 2015? (What you won't learn from the newsletter is the good news that, as of yet at least, the concrete crushing that precedes all this recycling is not being done in the middle of the County Grounds.)
The caption under the photo reads, "The 2013 Swan Boulevard project includes the construction of 'the butterfly wall' along US 45. The wall celebrates the migratory path of monarch butterflies."
Other recently rebuilt bridges sport similar designs. The airport spur has airplanes etched into the bridge abutments. The most interesting one, I think, is the I-43 bridge over Fon du Lac Avenue. In raised relief it commemorates the underground railroad and the struggle for civil rights.
I think it's great that the DOT is decorating the highways. They could go further, it seems to me. There are all those sound barriers being erected along the freeways to protect adjacent neighborhoods from the incessant noise. Why not liven them up with graphic designs?
But instead of cheering me up the butterfly wall saddens me. Last fall the migration that the wall celebrates was disappointing. It may have been temporary. It certainly was part of a larger problem that extended throughout the historic monarch migration routes and was most noticeable in the wintering grounds of Michoacan, Mexico.
Loss of habitat is the most often cited reason for the decline, as is the case with so many other animal species. At the County Grounds an 11-acre segment of the Innovation Park campus has been set aside as protected monarch habitat. With proper and persistent care and maintenance, perhaps it will enable the butterflies to return in future years. That is the hope.
For now we have concrete freeway walls etched with commemorative butterflies. I had to go see them for myself. With construction suspended for Easter Sunday I was able to do so. Here is what I saw.
The small sign in the center, erected by the Friends of the Monarch Trail, reads, "Butterfly habitat restoration project."
There is a second "butterfly wall" under construction along the unfinished cloverleaf ramp for the new Watertown Plank Road interchange.
A small wetland habitat next to the Eschweiler complex is staked with protective flags.
The boarded engineering building, part of the Eschweiler complex, awaits its fate: restoration if all goes well; demolition if not.
ABB is the first business to be located in the Innovation Park campus. The building is expected to open sometime this spring.