Saturday, November 29, 2008

Marquette Interchange -- just pocket change

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation's combined 2009-11 budget request for the North-South I-94 and Zoo Interchange reconstruction projects totals is almost as much as the entire $810 million cost of building the Marquette Interchange, records show.

The $766 million combined I-94/Zoo request -- which essentially are just start-up costs -- is a cool 95% of the Marquette price tag.

Get out your wallets, everybody. WisDOT is asking Wisconsin taxpayers to commit $195 million to the Zoo Interchange even though there is no design and no payment plan -- there is not even an environmental impact statement.

The money, WisDOT says, will be used "for design, real estate, and utilities," according to the budget request. "Design activities include the development of plans for anticipated improvements needed for traffic mitigation routes as well as formal plans for the first leg of the project once a preferred alternative has been selected. Utility work would include the relocation of electrical, water, sewer, and other utility lines needed to accommodate the reconstruction effort."

As for the North-South I-94 project, WisDOT is pushing forward with unneeded, unwanted freeway expansion in Milwaukee. The $571 million the department wants to spend on the project over the next two years includes $285 million in borrowing.

And remember the Hoan Bridge? WisDOT's records show it needs some fairly expensive work in the not-so-distant (2010 to 2013) future, and there has been much discussion about rebuilding it. The Hoan happens to not be mentioned at all in the 2009-11 budget request, setting taxpayers up for a really nasty surprise when they are asked in a few years to shell out for the continuing costs of the Zoo Interchange, I-94 North-South and the Hoan. These simultaneous projects will be more expensive than necessary because the state will be competing against itself for equipment and talent; they also will make getting around town via the freeway next to impossible because of traffic tie-ups and key interchanges.


capper said...

Yet, if one makes the suggestion that with the tight economy, the $5 billion + and counting state deficit, that these would be good projects to delay or even cancel, the anti-tax crowd would be screaming bloody murder.

No services for the poor, needy, elderly and/or disabled, but they can spend money on this nonsense.

Anonymous said...

I have some mixed feelings about all of this. First of all, I am much less fearful of a Zoo Interchange project than I was 5 years ago. I think the Marquette Interchange project was extremely well run, and I still don't think they get enough credit for it. And as most people who know me and my blog know, I am NO fan of government spending.

If the Zoo Interchange project is conducted like the Marquette was, then I think it will turn out well.

The Marquette Interchange was practically falling down, as the Zoo Interchange is today. So something HAS to be done there. And I think it is perfectly acceptable with the Zoo, as it was with the Marquette, to make design changes that will improve safety and traffic flow. I think the Marquette flows much better, and traffic congestion is less with the new design. Given the horrible backups at the Zoo interchange (specifically from I94 E to 894 S), a redesign there is needed as well.

With all of that said, I have a lot of reservations about the I94 project to the state line. While work on that section may be needed for general upkeep, I don't think the traffic currently flowing, or even the project traffic, requires the massive redesigns they are talking about there.