Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Special Interests Want Another Boutique Interstate Interchange

First it was Pabst Farms' developers partnering with the ever-compliant state Department of Transportation to throw $25 million into a brand-spanking new, full-boat I-94 "Diamond" interchange.

That's so shoppers could get themselves into the parking lots at a proposed upscale shopping mall in Western Waukesha County, with the developers paying just 7% of the cost, and hometown Oconomowoc less than 2%.


Now the golf tournament people up in Sheboygan County want a special I-43 interchange near Kohler to get drivers to big pro tournament events held there - - oh, about every five years or so.

Seems too many people were using State Highway 57 to get there.

Imagine: drivers using a state highway!

We can't have that: so the proposed solution to once-every-fives' congestion is the construction of a duplicative, $5 millin-or-more Interstate interchange instead.

Looking at if from the transportation department's perspective:

What's $5 million when just down the road in the Milwaukee area, you've penciled in $6.5 billion is penciled for the region's highway improvement and expansion plan.

Note I didn't say "freeway," as surely we all know now that freeways ain't free, and unless we begin levying tolls, the gas tax is going to have to go up about 20 cents per gallon to pay for the plan.

The $1.9 billion I-94 North/South leg from Milwaukee to the Illinois State line is set to begin later this year, through 2012.

Experts say the special interchange for golf tournament attendees would be a development killer in the area, but with Kohler Co. executives putting up half the study costs, what do you think the outcome will be?

(Could be a new Wisconsin state motto emerging here: "Wisconsin: We'll Build You A Boutique Highway."

For many millions of dollars less, fleets of TV-equipped, beverage-laden luxury shuttle buses to these occassional events could be run to Kohler from destinations like Milwaukee, but transportation spenders in this area are biased towards getting single-vehicle drivers everything and anything, regardless of the cost to the taxpayers.

In other words, bank on this one being par for the course.

(Thanks to Michael Horne for tipping me off about this.)

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