Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Walker Waste Commission Should Tamp Down Highway Spending

Blog readers have been sending in examples of state highway projects that appear bloated, unneeded or politically-inspired.

They are sending me these reminders after I noted the $1.36 billion in major state highway project cost overruns enumerated by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation itself, and I had wondered if such indefensible road-building expenditures would come to the attention of Scott Walker's new commission on fraud, waste and abuse.

For example, does Burlington, WI,  a city of 10,000, really need a 11-mile, $100 million highway bypass?

Map of the Burlington bypass.

A reader reminded me also about the Interchange to Nowhere off I-94 where the Pabst Farms mall has been canceled, and another reader jogged my memory about the widening of State Highway 23  as ordered by the legislature - - (and one of its main backers also opposed the Madison-Milwaukee train: isn't earmarking and dedicated funding oh, so situational?) - -  and not through broader state highway planning processes.

Highway 23, first talked about in the $50 million range could triple when all is said and done.

And can Wisconsin afford the remaining bulk of the Southeastern Wisconsin Freeway Reconstruction and Expansion plan?  The state completed the $810 million Marquette Interchange project, and is partially-done with the $1.9 billion I-94 North-South leg from Milwaukee to the Illinois State line.

But not yet begun or funded as more efficient vehicles and diminished driving cut gas tax collections - - $3.8 billion on various system pieces, across seven counties, of I-94, I-43, I-894 and State Highway 45.

And let's not forget Walker is on record for the full, $240 million rebuild-as-is option for the Hoan Bridge, forfeiting the release of land below for development.

Highway excesses...is Walker interested?


Craig said...

Time to remind your readers where the bulk of funding for State Highway projects comes from:

A) DMV Fees
B) Gas Taxes
C) Property Taxes
D) Federal Funding
E) All of the above

If the answer is all of the above then what are the proportions of each? That looks like being taxed 4 times for the same thing if you ask me. Tax Hell in Wisconsin brought to you by road building excesses?

James Rowen said...

And the state income taxes to pay off borrowing? And all the local tax obligations to pay off patrol and repair and plowing expenses as the system grows?

Joshua Skolnick said...

Based on this road funding, special favors for car dealers, and proposing extremely restrictive siting criteria for wind turbines, it is patently obvious that Walker is a shill for the fossil fuel industry. Convince me otherwise, but you have to show me the evidence.

I'd guarantee dollars to donuts that the Koch brothers directly or indirectly financed or provided propaganda tank pieces to bolster the Walker campaign for governor.

Tom Waukesha said...

It’s interesting that you cite the Burlington bypass that cost $118 million (actual). The bypass connects four major highways, keeping high speed traffic off local streets for a city of 10,000.

The project was started and completed while Doyle was in office. Your supposition is that this project, for example, is an indefensible road building expenditure and should be an effort caught by Walker’s new commission on fraud, waste, and abuse. Why’s that? Are you saying that Doyle supported something that was either fraudulent, wasteful, or abusive?

Burlington only has 10,000 residents. But, the $118 million (actual costs) bypass supports connectivity for 25,000 inbound/outbound vehicles per day. Assuming each one comes in and then goes out, that is roughly half or 12,500 vehicles. That’s indefensible?

Yet, you support an $810 million choo-choo estimated to service 1,000 daily travelers. That’s 8 times the cost, providing benefit to one-twelfth of the people. Now, that’s indefensible!

James Rowen said...

To Tom Waukesha: The Burlington Bypass is an example of how the state spends money.

Please don't suggest I failed to criticize how Doyle spent or planned to spend transportation money.

I have criticized the spending on the Pabst Farms interchange, the Marquette Interchange, and on the I-94 N/S leg, with the extra lane instead of commuter rail, as requested by the City of Milwaukee, and the rest of the SE corridor projects that do not contain a penny for transit.

The bypass binge began under Tommy. My point is that major highway expansion has been a bi-partisan approach - - though Walker, a fiscal conservative, is on record supporting everyone of these existing and proposed expansions or replacements, regardless of up-front cost (e.g., the Hoan Bridge, at $240 million), thus obligating taxpayers at the local and state levels to recurring costs.

Actwell T'lous said...

We've GOT to get these stories - especially the insane Burlington bypass - onto JSOnline.

What would this do to Burlington? Kill it! Bypasses of this type, in addition to being insane wastes of money, will suck the life out of the town in favor of fast food crap on the bypass.

Walker is getting worse and worse.

Tom - Waukesha said...

James – yes, you have criticized the spending of money on the Pabst Farms exchange, Marquette Interchange, and the I-94 N/S leg.

Here’s the difference. With Walker in office, the criticism of such projects is directed toward Walker. When Doyle was in office, the criticism was directed toward the projects themselves, or the W-DOT. Doyle was not the target of your criticism. If I’m wrong, please cite your blog entries in which Doyle has been criticized with similar discourse, intensity, and frequency.

Failure to see problems with both sides of the aisle is a shortcoming of this blog – though entertaining.

Anonymous said...

Meanwhile my wife, a 4K teacher will be out of a job, my children will be doing fundraisers once a week to purchase basic educational materials, and I will lose my part time tutoring job, funded my cancelled grant money. But hey, it will be refreshing to catch up on reading as I wait in traffic created by blocked roads being rebuilt at an unprecedented pace! This is what we get when we elect a C grade point average college dropout to governor.

Ramone said...

BTW - Tom from Waukesha: my grievance is that, rather than attacking a ridiculously bloated highway fund and saving our educational system (of which I and my wife are a part), he has chosen to funnel even more money into roads! Doyle didn't attack education THAT is the difference. High speed transit is a modern and progressive means of transportation and takes one step away from our dependence on fossil fuels. Like many new technologies, at first it is relatively inefficient. But if we cancelled any step forward in technology because it was initially cost inefficient, we would not have personal computers or cell phones.

Bill Sell said...

Respected analyst David Riemer puts the gas tax and registration fee at 58% the cost of roads; the other 42% is paid by sales, income and property taxes (all of us). http://www.jsonline.com/news/opinion/89803737.html

I made a pie chart from his numbers to show income source, and expenditures. http://www.milwaukeerenaissance.com/BillSell/RoadCostsWhoPays