Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Story Hill spared ruinous, costly I-94 widening. For now.

The Journal Sentinel is reporting that right-wing GOP Gov. and long-time Friends of the Road Builders Scott Walker's suicidally-bloated highway expansion budget will be somewhat reined in by his dropping the politically and fiscally toxic plan to widen I-94 E/W past Miller Park and Story Hill but also finishing I-94 N/S between Milwaukee and the Illinois line to satisfy GOP Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and his Racine County constituents.

Citizens have been fighting this I-94 E/W "Billion Dollar Boondoggle" for years:

“This costly highway widening would divide our neighborhoods, increase air and noise pollution, pollute our waterways, while diverting over a billion dollars away from the repair of our crumbling roads and bridges and the transit that connects workers to jobs and prosperity,” said Juan Carlos Ruiz, Chair of the Cleaner Milwaukee Coalition. “Some residents are also concerned that this construction could bring down their property values...” 
“This billion dollar boondoggle is another costly highway expansion that will divert hundreds of millions of dollars away from the repair of our crumbling roads and bridges and the local repair needs that are currently underfunded,” said Bruce Speight, WISPIRG Director.  “Wisconsin taxpayers should not be footing the bill for highways that aren’t needed.  We want and need better transportation options in our communities.”
Always good to remember that Walker pushed the entire, unfunded, multi-billion-dollar Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Freeway plan as Milwaukee County Executive, and in his first six years as Governor - - in other words, when it was politically expedient for him.

Now, in a re-election year and a budget short of highway funds, it's expedient for him to pose as fiscally-responsible.

So I'd say that, for now, we should be cautiously optimistic about Story Hill and the West side of Milwaukee being spared the loss of property, tax base, clean air, and peace of mind - - essentially, that segment of the plan is collapsing if its own unfunded weight and space limitations within the narrow corridor - - but remember:

Never under-estimate the power of the road-builder/state government complex - - and especially Waukesha County and its tens of thousands of GOP-oriented, road-expansion, anti-transit commuters - - to lobby for the segment expansion which Walker is putting on hold and to foist more highway-widening projects and wild spending on the public to meet their narrow, mutually-beneficial agendas.

Waukesha County commuters and the very powerful, symbiotically-linked road-builder/state government will worry and complain and fear-monger that the entire seven-county SE Freeway plan depends on Western Milwaukee County segment being completed, that the Zoo Interchange and Marquette Interchange projects will be left incomplete and orphaned without it, and the drumbeat to 'finish what we started' - - despite the lack of funding - - will begin.

So be happy today, but always vigilant. I don't think the matter is over.


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