Four Wisconsin legal and environmental organizations filed extensive comments last week with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, noting substantial flaws with the department's plans to rebuild and expand I-94 south of Milwaukee.
You can read the comments through this link to the group 1000 Friends of Wisconsin, which is one of the four organizations making the joint filing.
In a nutshell, the comments document why the project should be redrafted.
The comments also provide another valuable analysis of how major project expenditures in our region exclude minority and low-income taxpayers.
The department's proposes spending $1.9 billion in a 38-mile corridor between Mitchell airport and the Illinois state line, but not a penny for rail or other transit components, and without regard to Environmental Justice issues spelled out in the comments.
The Milwaukee Common Council has also objected to the highway-only spending, so these criticisms have spread into mainstream political and governmental actions.
And this analysis has also been made clear in a related issue - - water supply planning - - where development, transportation, housing and land use also are arguably distorted by a lack of planners' fundamental fairness.
In November, a coalition of legal and environmental organizations - - some also supporting the highway critique - - wrote to the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission and alleging a lack of compliance with key federal justice regulations in the structuring and planning of the water study committee's work.
The 32-member, all-white and heavily suburban committee is writing a set of recommendations for water distribution across the SEWRPC seven-county region.
The groups' letter was distributed with the committee's November 27, 2007 packet, but has not yet been posted on the commission's website.
The letter's opening paragraph was an attention-getter, much like the detail and import in the highway commentary, too.
So you'd think that savvy people at both SEWRPC and the transportation would take these legal missives to heart. Hard to know. Hard to tell. But here's how the letter began:
"We are writing," said the organizations to SEWRPC, "to express concern that the SEWRPC Water Supply Study appears to be operating in violation of federal civil rights regulations and environmental justice requirements."We are requesting that you immediately distribute copies of this letter to all Water Supply Study advisory committee members and to all Environmental Justice Task Force members.
"We do not believe this study can or should be completed until there is meaningful participation from, and the inclusion of meaningful outcomes for, minority and low-income communities in our region."