WISDOT Study Epitomizes Wasteful Government Spending, Outdated Assumptions
Milwaukee – The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WISDOT) today issued a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that proposes two costly options for expanding I-94 in Milwaukee. The study ignores community opposition to the expansion and concerns over detrimental local impacts of the expansion. The EIS also disregards data showing that traffic volumes in the corridor are declining and which call into question the need for expanding the interstate.
“Governor Walker and the Wisconsin DOT are proposing to spend over $1.1 billion on a highly questionable highway expansion when local roads and potholes are being neglected, over a thousand bridges remain structurally deficient, and other more deserving projects are ignored,” said Juan Carlos Ruiz, Chair of the Cleaner Milwaukee Coalition and a member of the Coalition for More Responsible Transportation. “We should repair, not expand the highway. We should focus on fixing local potholes and local roads, and giving the community more options.”
The WISDOT Draft EIS disregards:
- Data That Don’t Support Project: A September 2014 USPIRG report, “Highway Boondoggles: Wasteful Spending and America’s Future,” notes that the I-94 expansion is based on the presumption that traffic volumes are expected to grow by 2030. In fact, traffic dropped in this corridor between 2009 and 2012, the latest year for which data are available. Inexplicably, a 2014 WISDOT statement describing current traffic count numbers uses 2010 figures rather than the more recent 2012 figures, which are lower than the 2010 counts. A 2014 1000 Friends of Wisconsin report found that traffic counts on this stretch of highway decreased 8 percent from 2000-2012.
- Community Opposition: The City of Milwaukee has passed four resolutions opposing the highway expansion; Milwaukee County has also passed a resolution opposing expansion. In addition, hundreds of community members have expressed public opposition to these options put forward by WISDOT.
- Wasting Taxpayer Money: In addition to squandering resources on a project that data don’t support, unneeded highway expansion will divert billions of dollars away from the repair of existing local roads and other critical local transportation infrastructure all over Wisconsin. For example, with limited resources dedicated to repair, Wisconsin has 1,157 bridges that engineers have deemed “structurally deficient,” according to the most recent (2013) National Bridge Inventory tabulated by the Federal Highway Administration.
“It’s time for state leaders to make responsible transportation decisions,” said Bruce Speight, WISPIRG Director. “Rather than squander tax dollars on overbuilding highways, let’s prioritize the repair and maintenance of our existing infrastructure and the transit and bike improvements that we need to compete in the 21st century.”
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The Coalition for More Responsible Transportation (CMRT) was formed to challenge the overbuilding of highways in Wisconsin while our local roads and transit systems suffer. CMRT supports the repair of I-94, but is opposed to the expansion of I-94 and is calling on state leaders to get Wisconsin’s transportation priorities straight.
WISPIRG is a statewide non-profit, non-partisan public interest advocacy organization that stands up to powerful special interests. www.wispirg.org.