Wednesday, October 8, 2008

SEWRPC cowers, intimidated by the public

Unbelievably craven.

That's our SEWRPC.

Every four years, the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission must be recertified by the Federal Highway Administration. Four years ago, during the recertification process public hearing, SEWRPC was spanked repeatedly by public officials and regular citizens for its high-handed, conflict-ridden ways of doing business.

So how to respond? It's obvious! Get rid of the public hearing!

The public is invited to a recertification event on Oct. 22, but there will be no public hearing. There will be a dog and pony show, though.

The FHWA's Dwight McComb, a strong SEWRPC ally and a federal official that SEWRPC Executive Director Phil Evenson described as one of his agency's "best friends," said Wednesday that members of the public might be just too intimidated to testify in public, so were being given the opportunity to testify in private to a court reporter. Members of the public can also talk to ---SEWRPC officials!

He also said, though, that he did not know of any members of the public expressing an opinion one way or another about how the public participation portion of the recertification process should go, so how he came to the conclusion that members of the public may have been intimidated last time around is beyond me. He certainly didn't include it in the report he issued at the conclusion of that process.

McComb said officials were considering alternating public participation methods between the public hearing method and the whispered testimony to court reporters, so that a public heairng would be held only every eight years! When I asked him if this same alternating process would apply to similar recertification processes around the state, he said he did not know.

What?! People in other parts of the state don't have the same concerns about testifying in public? Or maybe it's really that other planning agencies aren't as worried about what other members of the public will say?

Oh, by the way, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation will have a table at the SEWRPC recertification gladfest, as will the transit system.

CASH, along with a number of other groups, is urging members of the public to participate in the recertification process, despite its severe shortcomings.

Here is our action alert.

ACLU-WI ¤ CITIZENS ALLIED FOR SANE HIGHWAYS (CASH) ¤ GOOD JOBS AND LIVABLE NEIGHBORHOODS COALITION ¤ MIDWEST ENVIRONMENTAL ADVOCATES ¤ SIERRA CLUB - GREAT WATERS GROUP

Make Your Voice Heard on Decisions Impacting Quality of Life, Mass Transit, Asthma Rates, Affordable Housing, Job Growth, and More

ACTION ALERT: On October 22, 2008, come join a coalition of individuals and groups to challenge the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission’s (SEWRPC) recertification as the recognized Metropolitan Planning Organization for the region.

"We said this four years ago, and unfortunately we have to say it again - SEWRPC hasn’t lived up to either its ethical or legal obligations to represent the interests of all residents of our community," said Karyn Rotker, Senior Staff Attorney for ACLU-WI.

Every four years, the federal government has to certify that a Metropolitan Planning Organization is following federal laws and requirements, including civil rights and environmental justice requirements. SEWRPC is up for recertification this year. The U.S. Department of Transportation will have a public meeting where YOU can provide written or spoken comments.

As the region’s Metropolitan Planning Organization, SEWRPC makes recommendations about transportation planning. These transportation projects impact priorities for government funding, how healthy our air is, where housing is developed, job growth, the availability of mass transit, the supply of and potential movement of water outside the Great Lakes Basin, and much more. The agency, however, often has ignored the concerns of minority and low-income residents of Milwaukee. For example, SEWRPC has yet to conduct a regional housing study - something it promised in 2005 to do. It has denied requests from groups representing low income and minority communities to participate on advisory task forces. It rejected the requests of its own Environmental Justice Task Force to seek a diverse and inclusive pool of candidates to fill its Executive Director and Assistant Director positions.

WHAT: Public Meeting on SEWRPC’s Certification as Metro Planning Organization
WHERE: Downtown Transit Center, Harbor Lights Room, 909 E. Michigan Ave. Milwaukee
WHEN: October 22, 2008 5 p.m. – 7 p.m.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Jursik wants study of longer I-794

You knew this one had to be coming. County Supervisor Patricia Jursik is calling on the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to study the possibility of ending I-794 at Ryan Road in Oak Creek.

Jursik made her request after the State Department of Transportation said lowering the Hoan Bridge and reducing I-794 to a four-lane boulevard could lead to billions in new development.

“We ask Transportation Secretary Busalacchi to spend another $175,000 to fund this study, the same amount he paid for the bridge-for-sale ad," she said in a press release. "In response to a request from South Milwaukee Mayor Tom Zepecki, my office asked the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (SEWRPC) to develop the footprint for the extension of 794 to Ryan Road. I have received this map and now call on the Department of Transportation to discontinue studies on demolition of the bridge and instead begin to fund the completion of this South Shore asset.”

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Hoan rehab: $100 million plus

Redecking and painting the Hoan Bridge would cost more than $100 million, according to a State Department of Transportation issue paper.

Major work is needed, though, WisDOT said in a 2007 report.

"Delamination on many east and westbound units of the Hoan Bridge has already crossed or is nearing the threshold requiring deck replacement," WisDOT said in issue paper dated June 2007. "The entire structure also appears to be well beyond thresholds for chloride contamination that is evident by the delamination occurring on the underside of the deck."

Delamination basically is separation of the concrete from the supporting structure.

"If the deck is not replaced ride quality will continue to deteriorate and maintenance repairs will be frequent if not continuous," the paper said. "In addition, full depth features are likely to fall off the edge and bottom of the deck along with the edge of the parapets."

Deck replacement on the westbound portion of the bridge would cost an estimated $38.1 million; deck replacement on the eastbound portion would cost an estimated $37.1 million. Painting the bridge after the deck replacement would cost $28 million, according to the document.

Highway construction costs have risen significantly since the paper was issued, but it's not known yet what kind of impact the current economic crisis will have on future project costs.

"Funding for the Hoan Bridge Rehabilitation is critical since costs are significant," said the issue paper, obtained through an open records request. It is one of two documents released by the Department of Transportation regarding potential reconstruction of the bridge.

The paper said the deck replacements would be done in 2011 and 2012, which make the project concurrent with both the I-94 North-South reconstruction projection and the Zoo Interchange reconstruction project.

The paper is one of only two documents WisDOT released in response to request for all records related to the possible reconstruction or replacement of the Hoan Bridge. The other document released was a draft report by the HNTB consulting firm outlining an alternative plan to lower the bridge and replace I-794 with a four-lane boulevard.