Saturday, December 29, 2007

WisDOT Coming Under Increasing Fire Over One-Sided Highway Spending

The refusal of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) to consider transit services in its $1.9 billion plan to rebuild and widen I-94 from Milwaukee to Illinois has led to detailed, written objections from the City of Milwaukee Department of Public Works.

Since this is agency-to-agency, engineer-to-engineer, bureaucrat-to-bureaucrat disagreement over a major state project, the DPW letter has genuine significance.

Excellent posts on the subject are here, by Citizens Allied for Sane Highways, and also here by Michael Horne - - and the matter will continue to fester, as WisDOT wants to shut down the public comment period so it doesn't have to listen to anymore criticism.

(UPDATE: Federal officials have directed WisDOT to extend the public comment through January 25, 2008, after critics said that WisDOT had chosen a holiday-heavy comment period from mid-November through December 31 that discouraged broad participation.

Comments can be sent by email to: dotsefreeways94nsc@dot.state.wi.us)

The DPW letter comes on the heels of the adoption of a Milwaukee Common Council resolution, sponsored by downtown Ald. Bob Bauman, that called on WisDOT to reduce the cost of the I-94 project by roughly 10%, or $200 million, with those funds transferred to the Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee commuter train line.

The KRM could provide a permanent alternative mode of transportation from Milwaukee to Illinois, as well as supplying crucial mitigation during the years of construction sure to tie up that portion of the I-94 corridor.

The starving of transit initiatives in the greater Milwaukee by the state has been demonstrated again and again, certainly dating back at least ten years, when it pulled the plug on its own light rail planning and moved full-steam-ahead with its $6.5 billion, zero-transit freeway expansion and rebuilding plan.

Light rail was primarily envisioned for Milwaukee, but the state backed away from a plan its consultants had produced after the predictable political objections from Waukesha County and area right-wing talk radio.

I enumerate a few other examples here, including the state's refusal to provide $100,000 to save a critical Milwaukee-to-Waukesha bus line for workers while at the same time continuing to offer $21.9 million for a highway interchange to serve a proposed, upscale shopping mall at Pabst Farms in Western Waukesha County.

Milwaukee-area legislators could do the taxpayers throughout the region a big favor if they would tell WisDOT, their colleagues and the Governor that WisDOT is overspending wildly on highways in southeastern Wisconsin.

And by taking transit options off the board, WisDOT is sending low-income workers, seniors, youngsters and people without easy access to cars literally to the back of the bus.

1 comment:

StopthemadnessNOW said...

Good, valid comments. WHY is Gov. Jim Doyle not exhibiting any leadership?? I think we know the answer but would be interested in your perspective.