Friday, March 28, 2014

Fix The Potholes? Wisconsin Pols Buying More Lanes Instead

Media are telling us it's spring road construction season.
The language is interesting. The closings and detours and delays are so routine, so 'normal' they're considered seasonal - - like tulips and fish - - when, in fact, the spring road construction season is predictable because both political parties have campaigns to fund and there is no more reliable source of donations than road-builders.
But what's truly seasonal when it comes to roads and the calendar?

A particularly tough winter has battered the pavement, motorists' nerves and wallets.Potholes, everywhere, with some worthy of building permits and environmental impact statements, but has the state, awash in surplus dollars, directed added funding to local street repair budgets that have been getting routine, budget-season reductions?

Even in a $43 million supplement of highway spending?
The Government/Road-builder Complex run out of the State Capitol, and in satellite offices in nearby trade associations and lobbying shops, has chosen instead to pour extra millions of our tax dollars into more new lanes - - big-dollar projects that will, after a freeze-thaw cycle or two acquire their own axle-breaking-tire-popping cracks, splits and degradation.
Why not fix what we have first?
Because there are bigger profits to pocket and ribbons to cut and news releases to Tweet when adding new lanes than fixing the cracks and holes with lower-profit asphalt.
The Journal Sentinel notes the 'seasonal' big-ticket spending for just our region:
The state Department of Transportation has 34 projects underway or to begin soon in Milwaukee County, including multiple projects affiliated with Zoo Interchange construction. An additional 28 projects are underway in six surrounding counties...
In southeastern Wisconsin, 96 projects are started a year at a cost of $410 million on 
average. In 2014, the number of projects started will be 65, but some of these will be larger than usual, making the price tag $443 million.
There is nothing on the horizon to think this politicized and costly pattern can be broken. The multi-billion-dollar so-called 'freeway' expansion in Southeastern Wisconsin has years to go because it has not yet been fully extended into Walworth, Ozaukee, Washington and Western Waukesha Counties.
The Battle at Story Hill over widening and perhaps elevating I-94 in the City of Milwaukee near Miller Park against the neighbors' wishes is yet to be fought, and by the time the region's seven-county 'improvements' that originated with an unelected regional planning commission are completed, the Marquette Interchange will need another expansion.
And, of course, the politicians and road-builders will continue starving transit systems, and blocking passenger rail, so travel will be forced on to roads that congest and deteriorate and congest again.
Former Milwaukee Mayor John Norquist used to joke that balanced transportation in Wisconsin meant "half asphalt, half concrete," but anyone can take a look across Southeastern Wisconsin's pothole-pocked streets and see that concrete is winning.
Cross-posted at Purple Wisconsin.


zombie rotten mcdonald said...

so travel will be forced on to roads that congest and deteriorate and congest again.

The life cycle of sprawl. Unless this de facto subsidy for greenfield development is halted, there will never be enough roads. And eventually, the greenfields run out, also.

Even New Urbanist developments like Middleton Hills are only retro-kitsch bandaids. Some of us are Old Urbanists.

Anonymous said...

How will Wisconsin pay for this? Borrowing of course! Walker is set to issue $393.6 million of revenue bonds, the largest transportation borrowing ever. Of that figure only $270 million for highway projects. The rest goes to refund existing debt and borrow money to refinance bonds that are maturing in the future. It appears that we are now borrowing money to pay for the money we previously borrowed. Debt upon debt doesn't seem like the wisest economic policy but Walker looks beyond Wisconsin's citizens for guidance in running this state.

Jake formerly of the LP said...

Now that being said, the Legislature did add another $43 million for roads for this Summer.

Oh wait, that was for state highway projects? And it wasn't given to local communities to fix the roads? Which means those cash-strapped places have to pay for the extra maintenance and plowing expenses themselves?


zombie rotten mcdonald said...

Which means those cash-strapped places have to pay for the extra maintenance and plowing expenses themselves?

It will be interesting and mordantly amusing to see how they deflect responsibility for this to the teacher's unions.

Or perhaps it will be because of the repairs to the Capitol needed due to structural damage caused by singing.