Saturday, September 29, 2007

Doesn't The Hurried-Up Pabst Farm Mall Interchange Need An Environmental Review?

So let's get this straight:

The state transportation department, Waukesha County, The City of Oconomowoc and the Pabst Farms developer all agree to quickly construct a $25 million interchange at I-94 and Sawyer Rd. in Western, exurban Waukesha County to provide the development's upscale mall with easier customer access.

Any parallel move towards a transit connection?

More about that, below, but back to the spiffy interchange being created at warp speed.

With the State using tax money to pay most of the cost.

There's talk of ground-breaking next spring, maybe as early as April.

So the question is:

Can the state and other entities proceed with spending that much money on an Interstate project - - and most of its share comes from state and federal gas tax collections (e.g. our money) - - without an environmental study?

The entire Pabst Farms project is being built on formerly-designated prime agricultural land. Water that flows through the land replenishes the region's underground water storage in aquifers - - something not helped along naturally by the addition of more and more concrete.

There are nearby bodies of water with water levels and habitat that will certainly be affected by the construction of a big-time, so-called "Diamond Interchange," with construction and the addition of sweeping ramps that will eat up raw land.

And there will be traffic counts on that stretch of Interstate highway that will jump with drivers induced to drive to the new mall - - adding an unevaluated impact on future development, land use, highway expansions, and local road usage, to name but a few items that need study.

It's noteworthy that the project and interchange have been labeled as contrary to the area's land use plan for the area produced by Kurt Bauer, director emeritus of the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission, yet Pabst Farms and now the interchange addition are moving forward, and quickly.

Have we abandoned entirely the concept of studying the environmental impacts of a suddenly-announced $25 million highway project?

Is anyone in Waukesha County or state government still interested in measuring all aspects of the public, common interest?

Update: A related question is being asked in Monday's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, too - - how will all the workers at the high-end mall get to their low-paying jobs without a transit connection?

Or to the hospital and other commercial ventures at the upscale city, where apartments and market-rate housing was excluded by design from Day One.

Steve Hiniker, executive director of 1000 Friends of Wisconsin, calls it all textbook bad planning, which is not overstated.

$25 million was found in record time to pay for the interchange construction: watch how the planning and transportation double-standard labors to find money for bus connections, which may get as far as the City of Waukesha, but not to Milwaukee.


Anonymous said...

It appears to me as if there are two different universes existing side by side. One contains the Republican led mantra of "No new taxes". The other universe contains these same legislators slipping in unneeded highway projects like this that cost huge bucks. The most annoying is the lack of interest by our citizens. They'd rather watch TV than think of such things. lol

Anonymous said...

I have been trying to generate resistance to this project, particularly the "fast track" aspect and the funding issues. I have emailed and called state legislatures, my county representative (Bonnie Morris) and the Waukesha County Exec, Dan Vrakas (incidentally, no response from Mr. Vrakas) and neighbors/friends. We must stand up for our right NOT to pay for the benefits that will be reaped by Pabst Farms. I am interested in any suggestions for next steps in blocking this project!