State Rep. Mark Honadel was a child when Interstate 94 went in, right behind his family's apple orchards.
"When I was a little kid I rode my bike on that freeway," he said. "It was the biggest road I've ever seen in my life."
Decades later, he would represent the area in the state Assembly and get involved in the years of political battles that it took to get to Friday morning's Drexel Interchange groundbreaking.
It was a journey that was often bumpy, but worth it with the economic development that's expected, he said.
"This is momentus," Honadel said. "This is the first new interchange on I-94 in my lifetime in southeast Wisconsin. This interchange is going to be an economic gold mine for the city of Oak Creek."
Gov. Scott Walker, Honadel and others formally broke ground on the new interchange in a chilly ceremony Friday morning outside St. Mary Coptic Church.
State and local officials said the project was vital to creating more jobs in the Oak Creek area and helping grow the economy. The groundbreaking took place about six years after discussions regarding the interchange started.
Walker said the southeastern Wisconsin region is a key part of the state's economy and the interchange was an example of good collaboration between public and private entities. The cities of Franklin and Oak Creek, the state and federal government, Northwestern Mutual and others were all involved in bringing the interchange to fruition.
Mentioning his time as Milwaukee County Executive, Walker said the interchange was the "missing link" when nearby development like the Northwestern Mutual campus was put in place.
"This is incredibly important," Walker said.
"It's important for the state as a whole, because the long-term investment, whether it's at the old Delphi plant or the 27th Street corridor ... having good transportation is a key part of it," he told reporters afterward. "That's why after years of raiding the fund in the past, we restored the money into the transportation fund, put a cap on those raids, and made the kinds of investments that we're able to make here today."
Construction will start later this month and is expected to finish by the end of the year. It's the first new interchange in Milwaukee County since the expressway was built in the 1970s.
Also at the event, officials unveiled an updated plan for the Delphi redevelopment project, now called Drexel Town Square, and announced that a $1.15 million grant will pay for the concrete removal at the site, 7929 S. Howell Ave.