Sunday, December 2, 2007

CASH Update On Freeways Is So Newsy That I'm Posting The Entire Thing

Where else but from CASH, Citizens Allied For Sane Highways, will you read a complete analysis of the outrage that is unfolding in what is called the North-South I-94 leg of the regional freeway system's rebuilding and expansion project?

The North-South project, from Milwaukee to the Illinois line, will eat up $1.9 billion of unfunded obligations...cause losses of homes and wetlands...pollute the air close to schools...using incomplete analyses, and name it, the transportation department wants to do it.

Here is the CASH analysis, and the details about how to comment or attend a hearing:

CASH update for November 2007

Keep up with the news at our new blog:

Dear CASH members and friends,
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation is accepting comments on its unfunded $1.9 billion proposal to rebuild and expand North-South I-94 from the Illinois/Wisconsin state line to about Holt Ave. and I-894 from I-94 to about 35th St.

There will be public hearings and meetings as listed below, or you can send written comments by calling the project hotline at (262) 548-8721; e-mailing WisDOT at; faxing letters to 262-548-5662; or sending them to WisDOT: Attention Bob Gutierrez at PO Box 798 Waukesha, WI 53187-0798.

Hearing schedule:

Oak Creek/Franklin Dec. 3, 4 p.m. - 8 p.m. West Middle School 8401 13th St. Oak Creek Bus Routes: #15, #48
Kenosha Area Dec. 6, 5 p.m. -8 p.m. Mahone Middle School 6900 60th St. Kenosha Bus Routes: #6, #3 North, #3 West, #5 South
Racine Area Dec. 11, 5 p.m. -8 p.m. CATI Center 2320 Renaissance Blvd. Sturtevant Bus Route: #27
Milwaukee Dec. 12, 4 p.m. - 8 p.m. Best Western Airport 5105 S. Howell Ave. Milwaukee Bus Routes: #80, #11

The 367-page draft environmental impact statement was released on Nov. 16, the same day the public comment period opened. That also happened to be the Friday before Thanksgiving week, the kickoff to the holiday season.

The public comment period closes on Dec. 31, New Year's Eve, the close to the holiday season. It is unfortunate that the beginning and the end of the comment period coincides precisely with the beginning and end of the busy, distracting holiday season. It would be nice to believe that is just a coincidence.

In announcing that WisDOT was indeed going to propose to expand the freeway, Secretary Frank Busalacchi also said that construction on the Mitchell Interchange would begin in 2009, rather than in 2011 or 2012 as agency representatives repeatedly assured area residents during numerous public meetings.

Busalacchi said he wanted to be sure that Mitchell Interchange reconstruction and the rebuilding and possible expansion of the Zoo Interchange (another project for which the state does not have the money) did not occur at the same time.

It is not surprising, but it is disappointing, that Busalacchi was more concerned with politically-driven construction schedules than with keeping faith with Milwaukee residents.

There are many reasons to oppose the North-South I-94 WisDOT expansion proposal.
We've compiled some of them for you.

WisDOT’s $1.9 billion cost estimate for the project includes a 3% annual inflation adjustment. Based on recent history, this is unrealistically low. The American Road & Transportation Builders Association reported in October that the cost of highway and street construction materials was up 6% from September 2006 to September 2007.

"Over the last three years, annual highway and street construction material prices have increased nearly 32 percent," the association said.
The environmental justice analysis is inadequate at best.

The study suggests that minorities would benefit from the project because “the study-area freeway system connects Chicago to Milwaukee, both of which are ‘minority majority’ communities.”

The reader can only guess at the supposed relevance of that.

The study does not discuss how many minorities actually travel between those cities using the freeway, nor does it mention the scores of majority-white communities connected by North-South I-94. The EIS does not include available documentation regarding work commuting patterns, which would shed substantial light on the issues of who benefits from the expansion proposal and who does not.

There is no funding plan for the project.

Busalacchi said in announcing the plan that work will continue “to identify the funds needed to complete the project." The source of funds needs to be identified before the state commits to such enormous expenditures.

State residents have a right to know how this will affect their taxes and transportation fees and the state’s financial outlook. They also have a right to know how a project that will absorb so many resources will affect other needed road and highway projects in the state.

While state officials have said publicly several times that the Federal Highway Trust Fund could provide a significant share of the money for the project, that fund is projected to have a negative balance by 2009. We reported on this in March. and in June

The project would drain money desperately needed for mass transit in the Milwaukee region. The EIS discusses the state’s past contributions to transit systems, but does not directly address how this massive project would affect future transit funding.

The EIS does not include adequate protections for students and staff at schools near the Interstate. Numerous studies show that traffic-generated particulates and pollution have adverse affects on health, particularly among children.

A recent study shows that students attending schools within 500 meters of a freeway can suffer permanent lung damage.

In Milwaukee, schools within 500 meters of the North-South freeway within the project area include Cooper, Garland, Lowell and Whittier elementary schools; Ronald Wilson Reagan College Preparatory High School, IDEAL Charter School and Professional Learning Institute at the Sholes Educational Complex; St. Roman Parish; and Salam School.

While WisDOT projects decreased pollution, the EIS does not consider the effects of any level of pollution on children’s health. WisDOT maintains only that it is not legally obligated to mitigate air pollution from the freeway.

The project would have negative impacts on many threatened and endangered plant and animal species, including:

Butler’s garter snake
Eastern massasauga rattlesnake
Blanding’s turtle
Bluestem goldenrod
Seaside crowfoot
Reflexed trillium
Smooth black-haw
Alkali bulrush

53 to 56 acres of wetlands would be affected. Of the 128 wetlands that would be affected, 53 are in Milwaukee County, 28 are in Racine County, 39 are in Kenosha County and eight are in Lake County.

The loss of an additional 26 acres is anticipated to accommodate reconstruction of I-94 interchanges in Racine and Kenosha counties. Mitigation plans are insufficiently addressed in the EIS.

The EIS does not analyze or discuss potential light pollution from the project.

This is a significant omission because homes and businesses – particularly those in Milwaukee -- would be nearer to the freeway.

The EIS states that the preferred expansion alternative would increase impermeable surface associated with the freeway by 25% throughout the project area and about 50% in Milwaukee County.

The EIS does not include plans to mitigate potential flooding and includes insufficient information about planned efforts to reduce polluted runoff from the freeway.

The document suggests that WisDOT will rely on grass ditches in Milwaukee County to cleanse the runoff. (We do wonder how large a grassy ditch would have to be to cleanse the runoff from an expanded Mitchell interchange.)

The EIS is silent on the impact of oil prices on construction costs, and is silent on the impact of oil prices on how much people drive.
You can read the EIS for yourself. It is at:

Milwaukee Ald. Robert Bauman is pushing for an alternative to freeway expansion. He introduced a resolution that calling for the state, instead of spending $200 million or more on making North-South I-94 wider, to use that money to fund the Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee commuter rail extension and high-speed rail.

The Common Council’s Public Works Committee and the Council itself are expected to vote on the resolution in December. There is a story posted on the proposal at:

The Public Works Committee held a hearing on the matter in November and representatives of CASH, the ACLU, the Good Jobs and Livable Neighborhoods Coalition, the Sierra Club and others spoke in support of the proposal.

Bauman’s proposal is picking up sponsors. Originally, Ald. Michael D'Amato asked to be a cosponsor. He has since been joined by Aldermen Robert Donovan, Willie Wade and Michael Murphy. Mayor Tom Barrett's administration also supports the proposal.

While the state charges ahead with plans to expand the freeway, County Public Works Director George Torres warned that the Milwaukee County Transit System needs a lot of help immediately.

“We are on life support right now and we have to find a solution sooner rather than later," he said during a recent Regional Transit Authority meeting. “Two years out might be too late." (See a posting at:

The good news is that the RTA decided by consensus of its members that it must pay more attention to the issue of transit support instead of simply concerning itself with funding for the KRM commuter rail extension.

As always, we are sending this update to one person in each member group, and relying on that person to pass it on. If other members of any group would like to be included on our mailing list, we will be happy to do that. Just let us know.

We are more than willing to talk to any group interested. Please feel free to request an in-person update or to ask us to speak with your group. You can contact me at 414-331-0724; CASH co-chair Bob Trimmier 414-232-6317; or both of us at

Gretchen Schuldt
Citizens Allied for Sane Highways

1 comment:

Dave said...

Agreed what a waste of taxpayers money. As Jan Gehl would say if you expand roads and freeways you invite more people to drive. Instead we should invite more people to bike and take transit.

Remember all wider freeways do is create congestion