New Study: Traffic Data Does Not Support Spending on I-94 Expansion

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Report calls I-94 project an example of waste, based on outdated assumptions

WISPIRG Foundation

Milwaukee – A new report by WISPIRG Foundation calls the I-94 double decker expansion one of 11 examples of wasteful highway spending based on its outdated assumptions of ever-increasing driving. The study, which details ten other highway “boondoggles” across the country, points to data showing that traffic counts on this stretch of I-94 have been dropping in recent years, despite WISDOT projections that traffic would increase.  The study calls for the state to consider reprioritizing scarce transportation dollars to other projects.

“Wisconsinites have been driving less, but Wisconsin and federal governments are still spending billions of dollars on highway expansion projects based on outdated and obsolete assumptions,” said Bruce Speight. “The time has come to shift our resources to invest in 21st century priorities, like fixing our roads and bridges and providing more Wisconsinites with a wider range of transportation choices.”

The 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 from between 138,000 and 156,000 daily today, to between 171,000 and 181,000 by 2030.  In fact, traffic dropped in this corridor between 2009 and2012, 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.  It is not clear why WISDOT ignores its own most recent data.  

“We, the members of this coalition, are here to demand that state leaders and the Wisconsin DOT not waste our tax dollars, stop the proposed expansion of Hwy 94, and focus our tax dollars instead on fixing the potholes and deteriorating streets in our neighborhoods,” said Juan Carlos Ruiz, Co-Chair of the Cleaner Milwaukee Coalition and part of the Coalition for More Responsible Transportation.

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 is opposed to the expansion of I-94 and is calling on state leaders to get Wisconsin’s transportation priorities straight.

“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,” said Bruce Speight, WISPIRG Foundation Director.  “It’s time for state leaders to make responsible transportation decisions. 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.”

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. 

“Why should Wisconsin prioritize spending on this highly questionable highway expansion while over a thousand bridges remain structurally deficient and other more deserving projects are ignored?” asked Speight.

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WISPIRG Foundation works to protect consumers and promote good government. We investigate problems, craft solutions, educate the public, and offer meaningful opportunities for civic participation.