Monday, August 31, 2009

The Zoo Interchange Proposal Embodies The Worst There Is In State Politics And Wasteful Spending

Let's talk some about the Zoo Interchange.

First, some good writing: The author of a piece for the Sierra Club raises red flags galore about the Zoo Interchange project had made substantially the same points in a recent Journal Sentinel op-ed (which I had posted), but I like the layout of her argument in the Sierra Club publication better.

Now the bad news: the project's consequences, and its politics.

I am not sure if people really understand the breadth of landscape and habitat destruction that is in this financially-absurd proposal, but I am predicting that it will be be held up for years, and perhaps successfully blocked in court, because it tramples completely on state and federal environmental protection laws.

And I remind you: the Zoo Interchange represents more than one-third the estimated $6.4 billion price tag to repair and expand the entire so-called freeway system in Southeastern Wisconsin that the Wisconsin Department of Transportation wants to carry out.

The plan - - adding 127 miles of new lanes, wider interchanges and expanded ramps - - was written by the un-elected Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission, using a $1 million grant from WisDOT, which, of course, has embraced the plan it paid for.

Originally, it was not to begin until the I-94 north/south leg from Milwaukee to the Illinois state line was to be completed in 2016 (at a cost of $1.9 billion, much habitat loss and years of unnecessary congestion).

But Gov. Doyle, fearing a backlash from Waukesha County (State Sen. Ted Kanavas, R-Brookfield had bellyached, among others) which wants Zoo Interchange work fast tracked to shave three minutes off commutes each way daily, moved the work up before the 2006 election - - and that is why WisDOT is rushing through set-piece public meetings so it can get into the ground more quickly.

Even though the state and the highway funds are flowing red ink, and Doyle has removed himself from re-election contention in 2010.

So the damage was done with politics running the show.

Among the plan's chief backers: Scott Walker, Milwaukee County Executive, which means he is the chief steward of the very Milwaukee County Grounds open space, habitat, woodlands and landscape the Zoo Interchange will demolish, pave, flood and otherwise trash.

If he is elected Governor, you can expect the mentality that wants to ruin much of the County Grounds, with its attendant air and water pollution, grafted onto an already out-of-control state highway budget.

Interesting, isn't it, that an anti-government type like Walker always wants even more spending if highways are the subject?

The Zoo Interchange - - and the dagger it then points eastward towards Story Hill - - is our warning.


Anon Jim said...

James - hate to tell you this but unlike your choo choo trains which almost no one would use, people and businesses actually use the state highway system.

And the Zoo Interchange is an extremely important part of that which needs to be rebuilt/expanded as soon as possible before it falls apart from neglect.

If the state highway fund is flowing red, isn't that because the thief Jim Doyle looted it to spend elsewhere?

Noticed you were all excited when Doyle bought the Talgo trains - you were not concerned with the cost at all in buying trains for a federal agency with state money.

James Rowen said...

To Anon Jim;

You do know that Amtrak ridership to Chicago is at a very high level; demand is great. The Talgo trains, which cost 2% of the Zoo Interchange rebuild/widening, were a bargain.

The state highway fund has been over-committed for years, to the tune of billions, because both Thompson and Doyle, and legislators of both parties, throw big money at the roadbuilders.

Your silly obsession with Doyle blinds you to the fact that highway spending in Wisconsin far exceeds state averages nationally, and is bipartisan and historical.

vic said...

can we remind people that every rider of a train, no matter how low it is mean one less car on the highway for those married to one form of transportation? people that love their cars shoud be THE ones to encourage others to use the trains. more of the same type of transportation is quickly absorbed by new demand and added inefficiency. (e.g constant lane changers on an eight lane highway).

Anonymous said...


If we don't fix the interchange - it will crumble. And your whining about being stuck in traffic for 20 minutes after having to go to Waukesha for whatever reason will seem like nothing.

As for AmTrak - are you kidding me?

How the hell is Amtrak going to help trucks and cars connecting to the rest of Wisconsin's freeway system?

And this sick compulsion about environmental proection laws and th county grounds - are you nuts?

Butterflies? Really?


Anonymous said...

"And this sick compulsion about environmental proection laws"

If you don't like living in a law-abiding society, move to Iraq. You'll feel right at home. You'll be able to drive wherever you want, and hopefully trip an IED.

James Rowen said...

To the Anon who scoffed at butterflies, etc.

Thise creatures are canaries in the coal mine, brother. Wipe them out and you are harming the same ecosystem that keeps you and the rest of us alive.

As for the Zoo Interchange, I am all for repairing it. But the widening is unneeded and excessive, and the current plan paves over rail right-of-way for systems that are crucial to reducing congestion.

I only gripe about congestion when it comes out of planning and spending that eliminates rail options that can and do reduce congestion.