Madison, WI - Residents of cities and towns across Wisconsin came together at the State Capitol today to deliver a simple message to Governor Walker and to our state leaders: Wisconsin’s transportation priorities are backwards and need to be fixed now. We don’t need new transportation taxes! We need to stop wasteful highway expansions and we need to fix the potholes that litter our streets!
“We don’t want a double decker highway boondoggle in Milwaukee, we want Gov. Walker to fix our local roads and potholes and stop wasting taxpayer money on wasteful highway expansions we don’t want and need,” said Juan Carlos Ruiz, Chair of the Cleaner Milwaukee Coalition and member of the Coalition for More Responsible Transportation.
The La Crosse community has been fighting the North-South highway 53 corridor for 25 years and voted to oppose the highway expansion by a margin of 63 percent to 37 percent. Over protests of La Crosse residents, the DOT proposed a new road that harmed residential neighborhoods and the La Crosse River marsh. Traffic counts have been essentially flat for the last 10 years.
“The city of La Crosse doesn’t want a wasteful new road construction project, we want the state to improve existing roadways, enhance transit services, and construct new and expanded bicycle and pedestrian facilities,” said Pat Wilson, Chair of the Sierra Club Coulee Region Transportation Workgroup.”
Across the state, streets are riddled with potholes, bridges are crumbling and local transit needs are being ignored. Three quarters of Wisconsin’s roads are of “poor” or “mediocre” quality, and over 1,100 bridges, 8 percent of all bridges in the state, are structurally deficient. Nonetheless, funding for local road maintenance and repair has declined by 30% over the past 15 years. Meanwhile spending on big-ticket highway projects has nearly doubled: Fork in the Road
“It is beyond time for state leaders to embrace more responsible transportation solutions,” said Shannon Majewski of the Coalition to Oppose the West Waukesha Bypass and a resident of Waukesha. “There is a way to achieve the goals of this project without widening the highway that is safer for local schoolchildren, less invasive and destructive, and far less costly for taxpayers.”
Driving Wisconsin’s “Brain Drain”
At the same time, Wisconsinites – and especially Millennials – are driving less, and want more transportation options, including more walkable and bike-able communities, and more and better transit. Yet, funding for these options is being cut, to build highway boondoggles. Investing in these options is not only key to bringing and keeping young, bright minds in Wisconsin; it will also become more and more essential as our population ages, and older Wisconsinites who can no longer drive become stranded, without options.
“Instead of spending billions on new mega-highway expansion projects that we can’t afford, don’t want and don’t need – and especially before considering new transportation taxes – we should focus transportation funds on fixing what we have first,” said Bruce Speight, WISPIRG Director.
Faced with crumbling local infrastructure and growing transit needs across the state, Governor Walker’s Department of Transportation is instead choosing to waste billions of taxpayer dollars to expand highways, on stretches of road where we are driving less.
Take the expansion of I-94 in Milwaukee as an example: The state intends to spend as much as an additional $800 million (above and beyond the cost of repairing the aging highway) to add capacity to the Interstate, despite strong public opposition and an 8 percent decrease in traffic volumes from 2000–2012. Fork in the Road
Four dubious highway expansion projects, including the double-decker expansion of I-94 in Milwaukee, would cost taxpayers nearly $3 billion. For just a third of that, we could repair local roads, upgrade transit, bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, and finance the urgent rehabilitation of state-owned roads – for the next 10 years.
“Let’s be clear: We don’t have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem,” concluded Speight. “We are here today to call on Governor Walker to tell us why he is talking about taxes when we are wasting precious transportation dollars on wasteful highway expansions, AND our local roads and transit systems are crumbling. Governor Walker, will you cancel wasteful and unneeded highway boondoggles, and get our transportation priorities right?”