Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Billions To Be Wasted On Highways As Era Of Cheap Gas Ends

At what point will driving recede because of the price of gasoline?

Doesn't it feel that way already? Isn't it clear that people are minimizing their driving, and will continue to do so as the price of gasoline rises.

And will adjust their lifetsyles, housing and work options to save money by reducing their gasoline burn?

Gas is at $3.49 a gallon, with $4 a gallon fuel predicted for this summer.

$4 gas today: do I hear $5?

And still the state forges ahead with the freeway rebuilding and widening plan, with eight years of construction due to start this year on the North-South leg of I-94 to the Illinois state line from Milwaukee.

Implementing a plan drafted when the economy was expanding, gas was at $2.30-a-gallon - - as I have pointed out and which the plan's author, the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission continues to defend - - and people were grabbing SUV's off the dealership lots regardless of the vehicles' mpg.

Mpg? That was for sissies. Get me one with a V-8 Hemi.

Ram Tough. Expedition. Hummer.

But now, bummer.

Things have changed. A deep recession, or worse, is unfolding, but no one at the state Transportation Department or in the Governor's Office is willing to rethink freeway expansion and improvements, and move towards regional transit.

No one will take leadership and begin to speak the truth.

So out will come the orange barrels, then the road graders, then the concrete trucks, with more billions of taxpayer dollars thrown west to Jefferson County, north into Ozaukee and Washington Counties, and south into Walworth County, for another 20 years.

Think of the debt we are laying down for the next generation to shoulder.

When we knew better.

1 comment:

Jim Bouman said...

The cost of the fuel to run autos and trucks is an essential element in the projections of increased traffic, justifying the widening of these roads. More costly fuel will lead to fewer rather than more cars and trucks on the road.

My understanding is that the figure $2.30/gal. was used when the plan was hatched.

A similar calculus was certainly used in estimating the cost of construction. Road building is astonishingly dependent on enormous amounts of diesel fuel (currently over $4.00/gal.) in the costs of construction. And the prices of concrete and asphalt are also headed up, way up.

Money for this road building has to be derived from fuel taxes and the issuance of long-term bonds. Fuel tax receipts will likely decrease. The cost of borrowing has grown volatile and unpredictable, though nobody is predicting a new age of cheap money.

These three elements would make any rational person--particularly a Governor--think twice, re-calculate, update, re-think the mounting costs and diminishing benefits.

But rational thinking does not enter into the world of road builders and politicians. Immediate cash for campaigns is the variable that trumps everything else.