Friday, April 16, 2021

Delaying billion-$ I-94 boondoggle good for Milwaukee & beyond

Proponents of clean air, rational spending and city living just won another year to convince state and federal officials that repairing-without-expanding I-94 west in Milwaukee past residential neighborhoods, several cemeteries and the baseball stadium is in the total public's interest:

A disputed plan to expand I-94 to 8 lanes on Milwaukee's west side will undergo more review. That's a win for project opponents.

Let's make good use of the time, and props to the truth-tellers with perspective, such as former Mayor (and my former boss) John Norquist writing recently for Urban Milwaukee:

In 1941, Norman bel Geddes, the designer often credited with conceiving of America’s Interstates, warned that the revolutionary highway system he envisioned could harm cities. After contemplating his freeway centric 1939 Worlds Fair exhibit he wrote a book, Magic Motorways, in which he expressed his doubts. 
“If the purpose of the motorway as now conceived is that of being a high-speed, non-stop thoroughfare, the motorway would only bungle the job if it got caught up with the city. A great motorway has no business cutting a wide swath right through a town or city and destroying the values there; its place is in the country....”

Adding the lanes will increase Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) not just in the corridor, but metro wide as it will induce longer and more frequent motor vehicle trips with attendant air pollution and increasing asthma and other respiratory diseases. 
It will increase greenhouse gas emissions and degrade the neighborhoods along its path. 
WisDOT’s cost estimate in 2016 was $1.1 Billion for a 3.1 mile project. This is money that could otherwise be spent on transit, street repair, bridge repair, bicycle facilities or to pay down the debt WisDOT has piled up in recent years. Spending over a billion dollars on another expressway widening project will force postponement or cancellation of other smaller projects throughout the state. 
According to a report by the American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA), there are 1,026 structurally deficient Wisconsin bridges. Structurally deficient means the bridge needs repair or it might fall down; functionally deficient usually means the DOT wants to make the facility bigger. The problems WisDOT has identified on the three mile segment of I-94 fit in the functional category. They want to widen I-94 to eight lanes and replace the left side exit ramps with right side ramps on the 175 interchange at the Brewers baseball park. The I-94 road bed is at a point where its age requires regrading and resurfacing which could be considered in the structural deficiency category. 
Addressing this structural deficiency while cancelling the expansions would cut the $billion+ cost substantially and leave money for other transportation needs. 

More history herehere - and here.

There is no constituency or true priority for, and zero fit with environmental justice and climate science facts and agendas to justify rebooting the Story Hill-area I-94 expansion which even road-building-boosting Walker had abandoned. 

Why are we still dreaming about adding expensive 'freeway' [sic] lanes 


while the potholes ('Scottholes') and crumbled pavement statewide which helped drive Walker out of office remain unrepaired.

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