Thursday, June 4, 2009

Freeway Financing Shell Game Exposed

Remember in 2006, when Gov. Jim Doyle speeded up the planned reconstruction of the Zoo Interchange to keep State Sen. Ted Kanavas, (R-Brookfield) and his impatient commuting constituents off the gubernatorial back?

Even though the I-94 North/South freeway segment was due to begin in 2008, and run for years at a cost of $1.9 billion?

Plenty of people knew that there wasn't enough money in the already-stressed and stretched highway fund to pay for two major southeastern Wisconsin 'freeway' rebuilds and expansions at the same time.

Well, whaddya know. The Zoo is coming way over estimate, at something like $2.3 billion - - three time what the Marquette Interchange cost - - and that leaves the Zoo in construction and financing limbo, reports the Daily Reporter.

Now we're in a recession. Raising the gas tax and vehicle registration fees would be political suicide, and even with budgetary back-filling with stimulus funds ($100 million dumped into the N/S leg already), the bloated and unsustainable highway building binge that has soaked taxpayers and wrecked the landscape here for decades is stumbling to a halt.

Remember when the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission spent $1 million of highway planning money to pencil in all this freeway reconstruction and expansion - - $6.4 billion dollars' worth - - but didn't include a financing recommendation to pay for it?

Not our job, the planners said.

But they sent onto WisDOT, which never met a highway plan it wouldn't share eagerly with their true constituents - - the road-builders - - a plan recommending building 127 miles of new lanes and all sorts of purported safety improvements, wider exits and other gee-whiz concrete amenities.

The SEWRPC advisory committee on this plan even overruled the SEWRPC staff and recommended adding 19 miles of new, controversial lanes in Milwaukee County and the City of Milwaukee, even though the additions forced the demolition of an additional eight businesses and 36 homes.

Tax base? Homes and businesses? All expendable. Collateral damage. Highways first, you know.

The prime mover in this extra dollop of multi-million dollar construction excess, and tax base demolition? 

Milwaukee's County Exec and resident faux fiscal conservative - - Scott Walker. You can read his motion and argument in the meeting minutes, here.

All they left out were the Personal Jet-Pack landing pads, and the toll plazas that will be needed to pay off this cockamamie over-building - - and I am told that there is enough land banked by WisDOT in the freeway plan to install I-Pass and collection booths.


So let's do the math:

$810 million for the Marquette.

$1.9 billion for the North-South leg.

$2.3 billion for the Zoo.

That's $5 billion+ committed already from the estimated $6.4 billion, with no work yet from the Marquette to the Zoo, (with an expensive elevated section to save the cemeteries but screw Storyhill), no work from the Zoo through Waukesha County to the Jefferson County line, no work from the south end of the Marquette all the way through Ozaukee County, and no work from the Zoo southwest of Milwaukee all the way to Walworth County.

The final bill will rival the Big Dig's scandalous overage in Boston.

On, Wisconsin!


Tarun Kumar said...

great article.......................

Jack Lohman said...

Obviously you haven't followed the campaign contributions from the road builders to the state's politicians.

Great guys these...

James Rowen said...

Well, Jack, I know the connections, so why don't you post some of what you know in this comment section?