Saturday, August 23, 2008

State mulls tearing down the Hoan bridge

The State Department of Transportation is thinking about tearing down the Hoan Bridge and replacing rebuilding most of I-794 at street level, according to the Milwaukee Business Journal.

Rehabbing the bridge may simply be too expensive, WisDOT Secretary Frank Busalacchi said.

No timetables are set for the study's completion or when demolition of the bridge could begin, Busalacchi said. He declined to prove the exact cost of rebuilding the freeway.

No word on whether WisDOT plans to add bike lanes to the new freeway.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Don't count on $113 a barrel oil

It may be nice to think that the slide in oil prices that dropped the price to $113 a barrel will keep on sliding downward.

Dream on.

The Energy Information Agency today said it expected oil prices to climb back to the $120 to $130 per barrel range for the rest of the year. Maybe.

From the agency's report, "This Week in Petroleum:"

While we are not quite as confident in forecasting the near-term path for oil prices as Michael Phelps might be about winning his next race, we do think that crude oil prices may settle in the $120 - $130 per barrel range for most of the remainder of the year, barring any additional major supply disruptions from hurricanes or other events such as the current conflict in Georgia. This is largely due to our projection that year-over-year declines in U.S. oil consumption will not be as large in the second half of the year, in part due to relatively weak consumption in the second half of last year and also to the perceived end of the upward surge in prices. Balancing out the forecasted decreases in U.S. consumption, we project relatively strong continued demand growth in non-OECD countries. Finally, as prices drop, Saudi Arabia may cut back on its recent increase in production, which could halt the most recent price decline. Of course, whether or not this scenario unfolds is anyone’s guess, but understanding the factors behind the increase and recent decline in oil prices is important in understanding what might come next in the prices we pay at the pump.

Meanwhile, we have a State Department of Transportation celebrating an $800 million freeway interchange that too many people can't afford to drive on because they can't afford the gas, and a transit system that very same WisDOT is watching wither and die. It just doesn't make sense.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

More study needed on I-94 project, groups say

More study is needed to determine whether additional lanes are needed on North-South I-94, according to a coalition of civil rights and environmental groups.

The study is needed because of the dramatic drop in driving that resulted from higher gas prices, attorney Dennis Grzezinski wrote on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin Foundation, Inc., 1000 Friends of Wisconsin, Inc., Midwest Environmental Advocates, Inc., and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People -Milwaukee Branch.

Grzezinski wrote:

The "need" for adding two highway lanes to the 1-94 North-South corridor has been premised solely on projections that future increases in vehicle miles traveled in the corridor will result in increased congestion during the morning and evening rush periods. It is that anticipated future increase in traffic which WisDOT and FHWA have asserted as the justification for needing to construct the additional highway lanes. However, if the increased future traffic volumes are not actually likely to materialize, there is no need to spend the hundreds of millions of dollars, and to incur the adverse environmental consequences, of constructing additional highway lanes in the next few years....

The Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission and WisDOT projected gas prices rising 3% a year from $2.30 in 2005, Grzezinski wrote.

However, as our previous comments have noted, gasoline prices have not increased at 3% per year since 2005, but have increased far more than that. Local gasoline prices were approaching $3.00/gallon by June 2006, and were at $4.00/gallon and above by the date of the Record of Decision. They have ranged above and below the $4.00/gallon level since then. While increasing gas prices were mentioned in the FEIS and ROD, the agencies' environmental analysis does not indicate that there was any reconsideration of future traffic projections in light of this dramatic increase in the cost of fuel. Rather, the thrust of agency responses to comments regarding the dramatically increased gasoline prices has been that the future price estimates were reasonable, and by implication that the previous projections of future increases in highway traffic volumes remained valid. More recent developments have demonstrated that the assumptions which underlay SEWRPC's projections of ever-increasing traffic volumes are no longer applicable....

The Federal Highway Administration has both noted the dramatic decrease in driving and the related drop in gas tax revenue, Grzezinski said. Meanwhile, transit ridership is up, he said.

These developments, on their face, call into question the asserted need for constructing additional highway lanes along the 1-94 North-South corridor, purportedly to deal with future congestion problems projected to result from ever-increasing highway traffic volumes.

Each of the groups -- the ACLU, 1000 Friends, Midwest Environmental Advocates and the NAACP -- request that a supplemental environmental impact statement be prepared relating to the Project, and that a hard look be taken anew at whether or not there is a need to construct the additional highway lanes.

Hat tip: Michael Horne at Getting Frank.

Monday, August 11, 2008

No money for lights, but...

The JS reports that the state does not have enough money to repair lights on its highways.

According to the story:

State transportation officials acknowledge the lack of lighting and say that the problem snowballed the past three or four years after budgets for state lighting projects shrunk or were wiped out completely.

Since 2004, less than $200,000 has been available for lighting projects in Milwaukee County, so the state fell behind in replacing lights. In 2006, the budget was cut entirely. The state had been meeting its mark of replacing lights every four years until 2005....

This year, DOT has allocated nearly $400,000 for lighting projects. That money will go to replace about 2,900 lights in Milwaukee County by the end of this year, Dirks said.
Transportation officials said certain areas of roadway are fixed immediately if there are burnouts. Lights along the Hoan Bridge, for example, are almost all lit.

Those that are waiting to be replaced are about a year or two overdue, Dirks said. Lights are usually replaced about every four years and then maintained in between if they break or malfunction because of weather or an accident.

And yet the state has billions to spend on unneeded freeway expansion?

Something is really, really wrong here.

Friday, August 1, 2008

More transit cuts requested

Milwaukee County Transit Service would be wacked again under a 2009 budget request. More here.