Saturday, August 15, 2009

When It Comes To Highway Planning, Public Be Damned

The familiar pattern continues.

Last October, the Federal Highway Administration carried out a required, public quadrennial certification review of the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission, without which SEWRPC could not continue to approve major transportation spending in the seven-county Milwaukee area.

The FHWA tried to make the review's public hearing into a tepid, town hall format after the 2004 session turned into a hours' long roasting, but that failed. Following the 2008 session, FHWA reviewers said the report would be completed in roughly 90 days.

Here we are, nearly a year later, and no report. Calls and emails this spring and summer to FHWA officials in Madison first produced word of delays, but have lately gone unanswered.

SEWRPC was kind enough to say this week that the report has not been delivered there. the state level, transportation officials have twice prevented activists from Waukesha and Washington Counties distribute leaflets at recent hearings in public facilities on a $2.3 billion plan to rebuild and widen the Zoo Interchange.

And will not guarantee that all the activists' comments will be entered in the record, the activists say. 

This official behavior has all the hallmarks of a vendetta by state officials angry that the activists sued in Federal Court, charging that the state did not follow proper procedures when state highway 164 was widened through farms and front yards.

So the state, striking back, is proving the activists are correct by denying them due process and their rights when it comes to planning and managing projects and agency reviews funded with federal dollars.

Bureaucracies, like people, are sometimes their own worst enemies.

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