Wednesday, April 16, 2008

State Proceeds With I-94 Plan Despite Public Comments

The Daily Reporter notes without having to directly call it ironic that the state Department of Transportation (WisDOT) is proceeding with its $1.9 billion no-transit I-94 highway expansion south of Milwaukee despite getting more negative comments from the public than positive comments.

One morsel from the story:

"WisDOT received 110 comments asking it to spend $200 million on transit projects, a plan championed by the city of Milwaukee, instead of building additional I-94 lanes. It received seven comments opposing the idea."

Amount of money in the plan for a ready-to-go commuter rail plan for the same corridor? Zero.

As I said earlier on this blog, So what else is new?

It's Standard Operating Procedure for the transportation department, or its sidekick agency, the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission, and in other public planning in the region.

(It was just a few weeks ago that 150 people attended a public hearing In Kenosha on the Great Lakes water Compact legislation, speaking forcefully in favor of water conservation. Last week, a 'compromise' agreement was announced, considerably watering down what the public said it wanted at the hearing, and what had been approved by the State Senate already.)

Citizens line up at hearings, or dutifully send in letters, or sign petitions, and their input is routinely disregarded - - whether on highway expansion, transit improvements or water conservation - - because special interests work arm-in-hand with elected officials whose campaigns they enrich.

It's that simple.

So let's tell the truth.

These public input charades, these hearing, are a fake process, a formality.

Citizens have said for years in this region that they want transit in the major transportation corridors - - including light rail and commuter rail - - yet the highway bureaucrats and planners, with the public's money, forge on ahead with their highway-only alternatives.

More truth: It's a closed, tightly-controlled process, designed to look open.

The regional planning agency took $1 million in funds from the transportation department, issued the $6.5 billion regional freeway plan, didn't include a penny for transit, held 'hearings,' got tons of negative feedback, then approved the plan, and forwarded it back to the transportation department that paid for it.

And where implementation proceeds, with $810 million already committed to the Marquette Interchange phase, $1.9 billion about to be spent between Milwaukee and the Illinois line, with the Zoo Interchange also on a fast-track to satisfy State Sen. Ted Kanavas (R-Brookfield) and other demanding Waukesha commuters.

The same phony 'process' is happening with the state transportation department's plan to rush a $25 million interchange onto the books for an interchange in Western Waukesha County - - to serve a shopping mall at Pabst Farms that has already been cancelled once by its developers and has been downgraded from the regional upscale mall once promised to a rather routine collection of retail stores, including some Big Boxes.

The planning agency took public comments on the interchange plan.

Every comment received was negative.

And then?

All the comments were dismissed, and planning for the interchange continues.

More SOP by the DOT and SEWRPC. Beware that bitter alphabet soup.

And remember that all this regional freeway planning (sic) is based on gasoline costing $2.30 a gallon.

Seen that lately, have you?

Motorists today were lined up at a filling station in Shorewood on E. Capitol Dr. selling regular gasoline at the bargain price of $3.48 a gallon - - 50% higher than what the planning agency used to predict traffic patterns and congestion, and to justify 120 miles of lanes - - because all the other stations on Capitol Dr. had regular gas pegged at $3.59.

Any bets when gas will hit $4 a gallon? I'd say no later than June 30.

Wisconsin motorists are screwed by the gasoline companies. Disregarded by local planners. Used by the highway lobby, and flat run over by the state transportation department.

1 comment:

Gretchen Schuldt said...

Jim -- Let's not forget that the firm that SEWRPC hired -- HNTB -- to help determine if freeways should be widened is the same firm that the Department of Transportation is using to help determine whether the freeways should be widened.

Think the answer is pre-determined?