Thursday, August 20, 2009

McIlheran Misses The Point: Episode #635

The newspaper's in-house conservative blogger bemoans delayed bridge repair in the Zoo Interchange - - true fact, good point - - then fumbles the ball by citing another conservative blogger who blames it all on Doyle.

Again, a victory of ideology and superficiality over reporting.

Truth is, groups like 1000 Friends of Wisconsin (entire report and follow up papers, here), politicians like John Norquist, bloggers and transportation policy specialists like Gretchen Schuldt (CASH), and any number of others, including yours truly, have been saying for years that Governors, regardless of party, and the highway lobby and the State Department of Transportation continue to promote the building of new highways without putting the priority on fixing the roads we have.

The concept is called "Fix it First."

Which is being violated right now with $1.9 billion (and a lot of early stimulus dollars) committed to rebuilding and widening I-94 from Milwaukee to Illinois, without justification.

And which is being violated with millions more spent up north on State Highway 41 through John Gard's old state assembly district - - pure pork laid on in the form of expensive small-town bypasses and new bridges and added lanes just because Gard was Majority Leader and made sure he got his share of new pavement.

Even little Mineral Point got a huge bypass - - completed in 2003, though the community lost 6% or its population between 2000 and 2008, and is now down to 2,400: state plans pretty much call for every village or town with more than 2,500 residents to get itself a bypass, and the heck with the downtowns that get bypassed.

When I wrote in a 2005 Cap Times op-ed about this idiotic new bypass binge, Pound, with 355 residents, was on the WisDOT list.

Democrats and Republicans, governors and legislators, lobbyists and road-builders have all had a hand in a road-building binge in Wisconsin that has been going on for decades.

While maintenance - - whether for filling potholes or shoring up bridges - - keeps taking a back seat to building more lanes or new roads that, in the long run, will also suffer their predictable lack of repairs.

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