Thursday, April 17, 2008

It's confirmed! I-94 plan a rip-off!

Widening North-South I-94 will not improve traffic speeds in Racine and Kenosha counties beyond improvements that would occur with a far less expensive no-expansion-beyond-design-enhancement reconstruction plan, according to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.

That's right. WisDOT has been insisting for years that it is necessary to spend $200 million. plus millions of interest, to widen I-94 from the Illinois-Wisconsin state line to about Holt Ave. in Milwaukee or there would be a 35-mile traffic jam. Now, though, in its final environmental impact statement for the unfunded $1.9 billion-plus-hundreds-of-millions-in-interest-costs reconstruction and expansion project, WisDOT throws in a paragraph saying that expansion won't make a diddly bit of difference in travel time for most of the route. (And let's not forget WisDOT's cost estimates are ludicrously low and assume a 3% annual inflation rate dating from 2006 -- inflation needed for road construction materials was 11.3% from February 2007 to February 2008.)

Here are WisDOT's own words on the travel time subject:

Travel times under the two Build Alternatives would vary considerably in Milwaukee County and less so in Racine, Kenosha, and Lake Counties. The Safety and Design Improvements with Added Capacity Alternative would decrease travel times on SB I-94 during the evening rush hour by over 10 minutes between Howard Avenue and College Avenue in 2035, compared to the Safety and Design Improvements Alternative. Travel times would not vary by as much south of College Avenue. In Racine and Kenosha Counties, there would be little difference in travel times between the two alternatives.

OK, so we're supposed to cough up at least $200 million for an expansion plan that might save 10 minutes for some drivers, traveling in one direction, during rush hour, 27 years from now (by the way, if WisDOT says how northbound drivers would fare in Milwaukee County, I haven't found it yet).

That $200 million could fund a lot of transit and do some good. Or it could fund an unneeded, unwanted freeway expansion plan that will do nothing but destroy wetlands, increase air pollution and rip off taxpayers.

What a choice.


Marc said...

there's a couple of other things to consider here, too: the DOT does not exactly have a great record at predicting future needs - the marquette interchange rebuild that was supposed to hold us for years to come will be at or over capacity from almost the day its completed. also - does the study take any account of future population increases along the racine/kenosha corridor as more and more people move there and commute southwards? again, they have not shown in the past that their vision is much more than incredibly myopic.
not that i'm overly wild about an extra $200m being thrown at the project, but unless and until the people in this state wake up and realistically start pursuing alternate mass transit options, we will be stuck with an ever growing highway infrastructure.
my $.02 :)

Jack Lohman said...

If this were being spent because it was needed, and not because of the massive dollars in campaign contributions from the road builders, perhaps it might make sense. But I've driven the route and an extra lane is not going to help much, if at all.

Jack Lohman said...

Is the correct number $200M or $1.9B?

Gretchen Schuldt said...

Expanding the freeway, according to WisDOT, would be a $200 million piece of a $1.9 billion freeway reconstruction and expansion plan.

Paul said...

Is this a done deal? I can think of some less costly and wasteful alternatives to adding lanes. BTW, does anyone know how well the public is receiving the new Marquette Interchange? Am I the only one who thinks it is something of a monstrosity? (Maybe that left lane turn off of Eastbound I-94 onto Northbound I-43 was not such a bad idea -- aesthetically at least -- after all.)

On the other hand, maybe the new Interchange will serve as a windbreak, shielding the MU campus from those very gusty winds.

Gretchen Schuldt said...

Paul -- The comment deadline is May 5. Please see