One reason Scott ("Borrow and Spend") Walker is cutting programs across-the-board is that he's about to heap another $1.3 billion of roadwork on the state taxpayers' credit card, and this budget-busting development today will only add to the debt.
The political appointees whom Walker sent to run WisDOT and keep the road-building machine happy and well-fed before the agency moves into a new $197 million palace in Madison edged closer Tuesday afternoon to earmarking 850 million public dollars to widen I-94 through the 16th St./Miller Park/west side cemeteries and Story Hill corridor.
That'll burden state taxpayers and guarantee motorists more new fees and time and business construction congestion losses well into the 2020's - - as will the debt run up by the ongoing $1.7 billion Zoo Interchange project, the $1.9 billion I-94 north-south expansion from Milwaukee to the Illinois state line, the $240 million Hoan Bridge redecking and other over-building - - all in the face of declining miles driven and the more pressing and obvious need for road funds being ticketed in a 'Fix-it-First' logic-based plan to repair the street network statewide instead of funding high-cost, hig-profit interstate 'improvements' and expansion.
If only there were some good data that WisDOT, legislators and their allies in campaign-donation-savvy road builder axis of excess could follow and implement.
“State leaders are planning for a transportation future that isn’t materializing, while they let critical local roads and transit systems crumble,” said Steve Hiniker, Executive Director. “While these massive and costly highway expansion projects are questionable at best, there’s no question that local roads and transit systems need repair and maintenance immediately...
The study analyzes traffic projections that led to the authorization of 11 highway expansion projects and compares them to recent traffic counts in the current highway corridors. The analysis finds that recent traffic counts on all of the 11 projects are unlikely to come close to the projections offered by WISDOT. Traffic projections are just one of several factors that are used to determine the need for highway expansion but they are crucial in getting federal matching funds.
“For example, WISDOT is projecting a 23% increase in traffic on I-94 near the Brewer’s Stadium by 2040. However, actual traffic counts show that traffic has actually decreased by 8% along that stretch of highway. Present trends show that the DOT projections will never be achieved,” said Hiniker.
The total cost of the 14 projects where traffic counts diverge from WISDOT projections is more than $3 billion.
Meanwhile, the DOT is forging ahead with a plan to widen Interstate 90 south of Madison from four to six lanes; the project is projected to cost as much as $950 million. When the plan was hatched, official projections foresaw a 29 percent surge in traffic volumes between 2000 and 2010, but by 2012, the most recent year for which data are available, traffic volumes had inched up just 1 percent over the 12 years