Saturday, September 12, 2009

No Funding Available To Pay For Speedy Zoo Interchange Project

Having foolishly begun an eight-year reconstruction and expansion of I-94 from Milwaukee to the Illinois line - - and committing $1.9 billion in funding - - the state cannot rush ahead and begin an equally long project in the Zoo Interchange, which will cost at least $400 million more.

Some legislators and the Journal Sentinel are pressing the state to go ahead and the Zoo Interchange on a faster track - - but with what money?

Are the proponents willing to support added registration and other fees? A higher gas tax? Tolling the interchange, or all major state highway projects, for that matter?

Will the proponents agree to trim the new lanes from these two projects, saving hundreds of millions of dollars?

The state transportation fund is already over-committed. It's a perpetual problem in Wisconsin: over-expansion that has led to heavy debt, and now, too many projects at the same.

For the state to launch the Zoo project before the I-94 north/south leg is finished will have some fiscal consequences somewhere: cuts to local governments for transit or street aids, highway programs cancelled, or fees and taxes raised.

Wisconsin has been living without realistic budgeting or reasonable road-building/expansion priorities for years - - so jumping into $4.2 billion of major Interstate and interchange work is hardly the way to get an out-of-control situation better managed.

As I've said often on this blog, freeways are not free, despite the nomenclature, so what better time than now to begin to decide what projects and added lanes are really needed, and what can be cut or cut back so the state lives within its means.

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