Friday, February 29, 2008

London's congestion charges performing as designed

London's congestion charges -- fees charged to motorists who drive in the congested business district -- have done exactly what they are supposed to do.

Vehicle traffic is down.

As side benefits, pollution and mortality are down a bit, too, according to Bloomberg, citing a new study.

Overall levels of nitrogen dioxide dropped by 0.10 micrograms a cubic meter of air, the scientists estimated. Levels fell by 0.73 micrograms a cubic meter in zones where the fee is charged, compared with 0.07 micrograms a cubic meter in areas where it is not. The zone designated the city's most-deprived saw a drop of 0.24 micrograms a cubic meter compared with a drop of 0.02 in the least-deprived parts of town.

There was a less-pronounced decline in levels of fine particles, likely because there are other significant sources of the pollutant, the scientists said. Overall concentrations fell by 0.03 micrograms a cubic meter. The most-deprived area benefited from a reduction of 0.08 micrograms a cubic meter.

Air pollution has been linked to heart disease, cancer, allergies, asthma as well as impaired lung development in children.

New York is considering congestion pricing. Could it work in Wisconsin?


Monday, February 25, 2008

Salt is toxic. Wider freeways = more salt.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel had a timely story in this cold and snowy winter about the toxic effects of road salt on fish. According to the paper's Lee Bergquist:

In metropolitan Milwaukee, road salt, or sodium chloride, and other melting agents wash into urban streams at levels that potentially kill fish and other aquatic life until it passes.

Last year, a scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey found that water quality at seven of 12 streams in metropolitan Milwaukee showed signs of acute toxicity on fathead minnows and a type of water flea after two storms on Feb. 26 and March 7. Scientist Steve Corsi said the findings of chloride concentrations exceeded the EPA's toxic standard of 850 parts per million on the Kinnickinnic, Menomonee and Root rivers and on Honey, Underwood, Lincoln and Little Menomonee creeks.

The expanded freeways that the Wisconsin Department of Transportation wants to build will require more road salt. More salt, more toxicity, more dead fish and more dead streams. WisDOT, in its draft environmental impact statement for the proposed, unfunded $1.9 billion North-South I-94 freeway reconstruction and expansion plan, said very little about how it would treat polluted runoff, and did not mention the impacts of road salt at all.

It did say that expanding the freeway would only minimally improve traffic flow.

Are the tradeoffs worth it?

Oil projected at $137 per barrel

From Rigzone, an oil industry newsletter:

Barclays Capital, a division of Barclays Bank PLC located in the U.K., has upped its projected oil cost for the year 2015 from $93 a barrel to $137 a barrel after record high prices in oil futures this week.

In 2006 after oil reached a "record-high" $75 a barrel, Barclays had made the 2015 projection of $93 a barrel.

In a Barclays research note forecasting the spike in price, analysts noted that "the remorseless move up in long-run prices has not yet fully played out."

Hey WisDOT, you listening?

Friday, February 15, 2008

Absolutely, wtihout a doubt, certifiable

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation wants to devour nine to eleven acres to accommodate its plan for a $2 million I-43 interchange to accomodate very occasional traffic at the Whistling Straits golf course.

Crazy. WisDOT has gone crazy. With our tax money.

But there's an inspiration for people looking for decent transit funding -- hold a golf tournament! State government will fall all over itself trying to accommodate you.

(Thanks to Michael Horne for pointing out the Sheboygan Press story and encouraging media coverage of the public meeting.)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Urban sprawl: a dangerous driving condition for teens

Teens living in sprawl counties drive more and are more likely to be killed or injured in an auto accident, according to a new study by the University of Michigan Injury Research Center.

Seems logical. More driving = more death.

Logical, too, would be providing alternative travel modes and discouraging additional sprawl.

Somebody tell our elected leaders.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Bush plans a transit raid

When the money to build highways is running out, what is a president to do?

Steal it from transit, of course.

The president's 2009 proposed transportation budget would move $3.2 billion in transit funding over to highways to shore up that rapidly diminishing account.

Transit would be hit hard; highways would limp along for another year.

And not to raise an uncomfortable question, but what happens in 2010?

Friday, February 8, 2008

Another blogger recognizes silliness

Jim Rowen at The Political Environment on the proposal for an occasional-use freeway interchange for rich people.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The final proof that WisDOT is out of its mind

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation is proposing yet another publicly-financed interchange to benefit a private business. This time it's the Kohler Co. calling the tune by which WisDOT will pick the public's pockets.

All because of a single event that led cars to take Highway 57 instead of the freeway. (Oh, the horror!)

The Daily Reporter has the story:

The concept for the interchange formed when the Professional Golfers’ Association tour went to Whistling Straits Golf Course in Kohler for its championship tournament in 2004. In planning traffic routes for the accompanying heavy congestion, the Kohler Co., WisDOT and the Federal Highway Administration discussed ways to deal with vehicle volume.

“About 60 percent of the traffic came from the south because the real hotel access was in Milwaukee,” Hoekstra said. “The ramps really can’t handle the traffic volumes during peak traffic times from the south and southwest, so we had some groups coming up from Milwaukee actually going up Highway 57 and then driving out to Kohler as opposed to using the interstates.”

The proposed interchange would be an "event-only" interchange. No kidding.

According to the newspaper:

"It’s an interchange that could deter large-scale development in the area, and it may only be operational for brief periods in 2010, 2015 and 2020. It also would not be built in preparation of a hotel expansion or construction plans by the Kohler Co."

The only good news is that taxpayers will be robbed for only half the cost -- Kohler will pick up the other half, and the total bill may be less than $5 million. That is a darned sight better that the highway robbery in Waukesha County , where the public will foot the vast majority of the bill for the proposed $25 million Pabst Farms interchange.

Still, to bill the public for at least $2.5 million for an interchange that will be used a couple of times a year by people going to a rich folks' spectator event: isn't there something wrong with that?

Monday, February 4, 2008

More opposition to WisDOT's 27th St. / I-894 interchange plan

KMart doesn't like it, either. Asset Manger Sandra Cash wote to WisDOT:

"With the proposed removal of the west-bound exit ramp at 27th St., Kmart is concerned about the potential impacts on our store operations, including visibility and access. The proposed alternative route of West Layton Street deprives Kmart's customers of the convenience and ease of the current offramp configuration."

Is WisDOT listening? Does it ever?

Friday, February 1, 2008

EPA said I-94 EIS contains "insufficient information"

WisDOT relied on outdated information for its air pollution analysis related to its proposed, yet unfunded, $1.9 billion I-94 North-South expansion plan, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency.

The EPA also sait WisDOT's wetlands analysis falls significantly short.

Story and a copy of EPA's comments here.