Monday, December 3, 2007

Reasons to oppose the I-94 North-South expansion project

Public hearings on the proposed, unfunded $1.9 billion North-South I-94 expansion project start today. The hearing schedule, along with other ways to speak yer mind to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation about the draft environmental impact statement for the project, are at the bottom of this post. The deadline to submit your comments is Dec. 31.

First, though, we wanted to bring you some good reasons to oppose the project.

• WisDOT’s $1.9 billion cost estimate for the project includes a 3% annual inflation adjustment. Based on recent history, this is unrealistically low. The American Road & Transportation Builders Association reported in October that the cost of highway and street construction materials was up 6% from September 2006 to September 2007. "Over the last three years, annual highway and street construction material prices have increased nearly 32 percent," the association said.

• The environmental justice analysis is inadequate at best. The study suggests that minorities would benefit from the project because “the study-area freeway system connects Chicago to Milwaukee, both of which are ‘minority majority’ communities.” The reader can only guess at the supposed relevance of that. The study does not discuss how many minorities actually travel between those cities using the freeway, nor does it mention the scores of majority-white communities connected by North-South I-94. The EIS does not include available documentation regarding work commuting patterns, which would shed substantial light on the issues of who benefits from the expansion proposal and who does not.

• There is no funding plan for the project. Busalacchi said in announcing the plan that work will continue “to identify the funds needed to complete the project." The source of funds needs to be identified before the state commits to such enormous expenditures. State residents have a right to know how this will affect their taxes and transportation fees and the state’s financial outlook. They also have a right to know how a project that will absorb so many resources will affect other needed road and highway projects in the state. While state officials have said publicly several times that the Federal Highway Trust Fund could provide a significant share of the money for the project, that fund is projected to have a negative balance by 2009. We reported on this in March http://www.storyhill.net/IssuesFreeway65.htm and in June http://www.storyhill.net/IssuesFreeway67.htm

• The project would drain money desperately needed for mass transit in the Milwaukee region. The EIS discusses the state’s past contributions to transit systems, but does not directly address how this massive project would affect future transit funding.

• The EIS does not include adequate protections for students and staff at schools near the Interstate. Numerous studies show that traffic-generated particulates and pollution have adverse affects on health, particularly among children. A recent study shows that students attending schools within 500 meters of a freeway can suffer permanent lung damage. In Milwaukee, schools within 500 meters of the North-South freeway within the project area include Cooper, Garland, Lowell and Whittier elementary schools; Ronald Wilson Reagan College Preparatory High School, IDEAL Charter School and Professional Learning Institute at the Sholes Educational Complex; St. Roman Parish; and Salam School. While WisDOT projects decreased pollution, the EIS does not consider the effects of any level of pollution on children’s health. WisDOT maintains only that it is not legally obligated to mitigate air pollution from the freeway.

• The project would have negative impacts on many threatened and endangered plant and animal species, including:
-- Butler’s garter snake
-- Eastern massasauga rattlesnake
-- Blanding’s turtle
-- Bluestem goldenrod
-- Seaside crowfoot
-- Reflexed trillium
-- Smooth black-haw
-- Alkali bulrush

• 53 to 56 acres of wetlands would be affected. Of the 128 wetlands that would be affected, 53 are in Milwaukee County, 28 are in Racine County, 39 are in Kenosha County and eight are in Lake County. The loss of an additional 26 acres is anticipated to accommodate reconstruction of I-94 interchanges in Racine and Kenosha counties. Mitigation plans are insufficiently addressed in the EIS.

• The EIS does not analyze or discuss potential light pollution from the project. This is a significant omission because homes and businesses – particularly those in Milwaukee -- would be nearer to the freeway.

• The EIS states that the preferred expansion alternative would increase impermeable surface associated with the freeway by 25% throughout the project area and about 50% in Milwaukee County. The EIS does not include plans to mitigate potential flooding and includes insufficient information about planned efforts to reduce polluted runoff from the freeway. The document suggests that WisDOT will rely on grass ditches in Milwaukee County to cleanse the runoff. (We do wonder how large a grassy ditch would have to be to cleanse the runoff from an expanded Mitchell interchange.)

• The EIS is silent on the impact of oil prices on construction costs, and is silent on the impact of oil prices on how much people drive.

You can read the EIS for yourself. It is at http://www.dot.wisconsin.gov/projects/d2/i94/eis.htm

You can send comments about the eis by calling the project hotline at (262) 548-8721; e-mailing WisDOT at dotsefreeways94nsc@dot.state.wi.us; faxing letters to 262-548-5662; or sending them to WisDOT: Attention Bob Gutierrez at PO Box 798 Waukesha,

Here is the schedule for all four hearings

* Oak Creek/Franklin
Dec. 3, 4 p.m. - 8 p.m.
West Middle School
8401 13th St.
Oak Creek
Bus Routes: #15, #48

* Kenosha Area
Dec. 6, 5 p.m. -8 p.m.
Mahone Middle School
6900 60th St.
Kenosha
Bus Routes: #6, #3 North, #3 West, #5 South

* Racine Area
Dec. 11, 5 p.m. -8 p.m.
CATI Center
2320 Renaissance Blvd.
Sturtevant
Bus Route: #27

* Milwaukee
Dec. 12, 4 p.m. - 8 p.m.
Best Western Airport
5105 S. Howell Ave.
Milwaukee
Bus Routes: #80, #11

1 comment:

Rawkston Stul said...

Another MAJOR reason to oppose it:

This project will encourage second-rate sprawl style development in Racine and Kenosha counties. This will be especially apparent around Pleasant Prairie, which ought to be renamed "Unpleasant Parking Lot" since nothing remotely prairie like is left.

But I digress - this type of "development" sucks life out of real communities and provides, at best, marginal jobs that require automobiles to get to.

Thank you very much for bringing this nightmare to people's attention!