In 1955, the Federal Highway Act was passed, creating the Interstate Highway system. Large municipalities began to lay out grandiose plans to build freeways around and through their metropolitan areas. Milwaukee, Wisconsin, was no exception.
A freeway plan was laid out that had four north-south routes and three east-west routes. Milwaukee already had a bypass, Wisconsin Highway 100, that was designed to route through trucks around the metro area, following Brown Deer Road west, Lovers Lane/Mayfair Road south and Ryan Road east. The freeway plan followed that same general idea, but added north-south routes along the lakefront, through downtown, through the middle of the city past the stadium, and the far west corridor.
Anti-freeway forces immediately sprang up and fought tooth and nail to block freeway development. Although several freeways were built, much of the proposed system died on the drawing board, successfully blocked by citizen protests. (Part of the freeway bypass was completed, in the form of I-894. The east-west link on the far north side of the metro area, however, was never completed. The Highway 100 bypass still follows Brown Deer Road.)
The lakefront route was (thankfully) stopped, preserving the parkland feeling along the shore of Lake Michigan, but a part of the freeway was built that, today, includes the Hoan Bridge over the mouth of the Milwaukee River and an elevated highway over the heavily industrialized harbor area. The plan was for the lakefront freeway to follow the lake through Racine and Kenosha, eventually connecting to a lakefront freeway in Chicago, that also, was never built. Today, a surface parkway follows the old corridor, providing easy access to downtown from the southern lakefront suburbs.
One of the connectors to the lakefront freeway was called the Park East Freeway. It was also stopped by opposing forces, but not until it was completed about halfway to the lakefront. The elevated spur ran east from I-43, crossed the Milwaukee River and abruptly ended, dumping traffic onto surface streets that were never really improved to carry excess traffic, except there was so little traffic on the spur that there really wasn't that much impact.
In the mid 1990's, Mayor John Norquist began a campaign to remove both the Park East Freeway and I-794, to be replaced by boulevards and open the rights-of-way to development. The State of Wisconsin agreed to provide Milwaukee with some funds to remove one, but not enough to remove both, freeways. Mayor Norquist dropped plans to remove I-794 and began a campaign to remove the Park East Freeway.
A lively battle ensued between the forces that wanted the spur removed and those who wanted it rebuilt. The forces to remove the Park East won, and the freeway came down in 2003.
McKinley Avenue was rebuilt into a boulevard to carry the former Park East traffic and open the area to development. In order to cross the river, the city built this lift bridge in 2003.