Tuesday, January 29, 2008

1000 Friends of Wisconsin: 10 reasons to oppose the I-94 North-South expansion plan

1. It is not needed. The study promoting the plan ignores numerous studies that demonstrate that adding capacity to highways induces demand. In other words, “build it and they will come.” The study also fails to address that the rate of increase in vehicle miles traveled is slowing – not growing.

2. We can’t afford it. The expansion plans will cost 1.9 billion dollars. The complete freeway build out plan (the ambitious $20 billion State Highway 2020 plan) will cost more than $544 million over what we are spending on roads today. That would require the equivalent of a 16.5 cent gas tax rise to fund it.

3. It will increase property taxes. Currently, over 40% (or about $1.3 billion) of road and highway costs are shouldered by property tax payers. As the state increases spending on highway projects such as the I-94 expansion – without raising gas taxes – more of the costs are shifted to property tax payers.

4. It will add to the problems of global warming. 28% of greenhouse gas emissions in
Wisconsin are generated by the transportation sector. Even as automobiles get more fuel efficient, increases in total miles driven outpace those savings. We need to reduce miles driven – not encourage more driving.

5. There is no funding for improving transit in the corridor. Despite regional and local plans that call for increased transit service in the region, this proposal will deplete state transportation funds before transit improvements are undertaken. Expanding the highway before transit is improved essentially guarantees that the transit improvements will never be funded.

6. It will add to sprawl in the region. Highways facilitate low-density, sprawl-type
development. This inefficient development increase property taxes and induces more
automobile travel. This, in turn, deteriorates the quality of life and ultimately leads to lower property values.

7. It will harm Wisconsin’s economy in future years. As the cost of gasoline rises in the years to come, Wisconsin will need to have a transit infrastructure that allows for non-automobile travel in order to be competitive with other regions in the country. Ignoring those transit infrastructure needs will make Wisconsin less competitive in the 21st century.

8. It will harm the health of residents in the corridor. Increased traffic causes serious health problems, such as asthma, bronchitis and other respiratory problems, for those living near highways. Expansion will only increase the health risk for those living closer to the highway.

9. Alternatives to the expansion have been ignored. Factoring in a more realistic and lower rate of vehicle miles driven would lead to a different recommendation: reconstruct the highway in its existing footprint and improve transit options such as the KRM connector.

10. It will take money from other needed transportation improvements in Wisconsin. Unless a huge tax increase is used to offset the costs of the project, other areas of Wisconsin will have to postpone or eliminate other transportation projects.

1 comment:

Paul Trotter said...

Our County Executive Scott Walker has no vision for modern transportation in Milwaukee County. The current transportation system will crumble under his no tax stance. Mr. Walker is controlled by conservative talk radio and doesn't have the fortitude to do what is right for Milwaukee County. Mr. Walker leads by what might get him elected not by what is right for Milwaukee County. Business will not be able to obtain and retain workers because we do not have efficient transportation. Job ads are increasingly requiring workers to have their own transportation as their place of employment is not on a bus line. The leaders at the local, county and state levels should consider a transportation summit produces a plan for modern transportation in years to come. Consider the funding formula adopted by MetroTransit of the Minneapolis and St. Paul Metro area.
35% collected from fareboxes
60% from state appropriations and motor vehicle taxes/ sales
5% from federal and self-generating sources
We must begin to present the City of Milwaukee as a modern city. Take a ride in the middle of winter on the Metro ( light rail ) from the airport in Minneapolis to the Humphrey Dome and experience what modern transportation is all about. Then take one of our busses from the airport to Miller Park. A Metro ride takes 19 minutes from the airport to a Vikings game in the middle of winter. A bus ride from the airport in Milwaukee to Miller Park requires 1 transfer and an estimated 60 minutes travel time or more if the weather is bad. The article below is a good example of how we can work together to get this done and create a modern Milwaukee.

Open Access Article Originally Published: September 14, 2005
Just last June the Twin Cities, one of the Midwest's fastest growing metropolitan regions, celebrated the first anniversary of the Hiawatha Line, a light rail route linking downtown Minneapolis with the region’s airport and the Mall of America.

A few days later, the U.S. Census dropped Detroit — which has one of the worst public transportation systems of any major metropolitan region anywhere — from its list of America's 10 largest cities.

This is hardly a coincidence, as hundreds of transit advocates from across the nation gathered in Salt Lake City for the Rail-Volution Conference are learning. This weekend's conference celebrates the remarkable boost modern public transit systems are giving to dozens of American cities. There is no longer any doubt that a powerful link exists between effective public transit and a region's economy.

Minneapolis and Detroit offer prime examples. Minneapolis' Metro Transit reported six million rides in its first year of light rail, 61 percent higher than predicted. The Twin Cities regional population jumped nearly 3 percent since 2000, a healthy growth rate.

Meanwhile, the Census reported that Detroit, where a struggling network of buses are the only regional transit option, lost 50,000 residents since 2000, more than any other American city, returning Motown to its 1915 population.

One big reason for the stark difference is that, while Detroit's racially hostile city-suburban relationship frustrates efforts to develop regional transit, the Twin Cities's regional cooperation and steady pressure from transit advocates produced a more balanced transportation system.

Patience and Vision
But the Hiawatha line's arrival also shows how much effort it takes, even without racial divisiveness, to build quality transit. When it was first proposed in the 1970s, conservative politicians attacked light rail as a waste of taxpayer money. Now, however, Russ Adams of the nonprofit, Minneapolis-based Alliance for Metropolitan Stability says it is clear how wrong that claim was.

"The critics of light rail made a very bad miscalculation of the public's growing desire for transportation choices," Mr. Adams said. "Our region now recognizes what a terrible mistake it has been to focus on a single-solution approach."

The Metropolitan Council, a planning agency, provided a forum and official advocacy for light rail in the state Legislature. Finally, in the 1990s, the tide changed, thanks to patient advocacy, widespread opposition to freeway expansions by neighborhoods targeted for such projects, and a Minneapolis congressman who directed $334 million in federal funds to the $715 million Hiawatha light rail corridor.
Open Access Article Originally Published: September 14, 2005
The line, which began service on June 26, 2004, was an immediate hit. Metro Transit reports that it averaged 19,700 rides per weekday between January and May of this year, and that 57 percent of its riders use light rail at least five days a week.

Pragmatism vs. Partisanship
In fact, some observers say, the line is so popular that the Minnesota Legislature's inaction on additional transit during its 2003-2004 session may have cost 13 Republican members of the state House, many of whom opposed funding more transit, their jobs. The same trend was observed last November in Colorado, where voters replaced Republican lawmakers opposing Denver's $4.7 billion regional transit initiative and swung the state Legislature to the Democrats for the first time in a generation.

"Increasingly it's clear that pragmatists…best represent the interests of hard-pressed suburban commuters," the Minneapolis-based Star Tribune editorialized after last November's surprising local results. "Indeed, Twin Cities voters are happily discovering what's long been true elsewhere: Better transportation doesn't have to be a partisan issue."

Former Michigan Governor William G. Milliken, a moderate Republican, told southeast Michigan's leaders the same thing during his speech at the Mackinac Regional Conference, on Mackinac Island, in May.

Mr. Milliken knows the story well: In 1976, while he was governor, U.S. Transportation Secretary William Coleman offered $600 million in federal funds to build regional transportation in southeast Michigan. But distrust between the largely white suburbs and largely African-American Detroit doomed the proposal.

"It would have brought people together, to and from every point of the region," Mr. Milliken laments. "It would have helped people get to jobs."

Opposition to regional transit for metropolitan Detroit persists. Democratic Governor Jennifer M. Granholm invoked Mr. Milliken's vision of "one Michigan" in her 2002 election campaign and appointed him to co-chair a panel that drew up a Smart Growth plan for the state in 2003 that includes transit. But suburban Republican state legislators prefer laying pavement, not rails.

Let's Get Together
Of course, successfully transit is no cure-all. Minnesota's Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty recently vetoed a bipartisan bill that would have provided an additional $200 million annually for transit by 2011, including a half-cent regional sales tax for expanded transit, bicycling, and walking in the Twin Cities region. Now large cuts in the region's bus system loom.

It's a strange decision: Public transit has helped the Twin Cities' metropolitan unemployment rate to register a strikingly low 3.7% in May 2005. Compare that to 7.5% unemployment in metro Detroit, the highest of any major metropolitan region. Business is flocking to Hiawatha light rail corridor. The Metro Council forecasts 7,150 new housing units, more than 19 million sq. ft. of new commercial space, and up to 68,000 new jobs by year 2020 along the Hiawatha line. Transit success has shifted the conversation among Twin Cities residents from whether to where to build the next line.

Meanwhile, Mr. Milliken says the failure of metropolitan Detroit to capitalize on the 1976 federal transit offer is among his chief regrets. Pointing to Toronto and Chicago, two cities that developed outstanding regional transit systems and now thrive economically, he asserts that Michigan would be "light years ahead" had its most populous region embraced a regional transit plan 30 years ago.

When Transit Works

By Dave Dempsey

Twin Cities soar with transit, Detroit sinks without.