1000 Friends of Wisconsin
Press Release

1000 Friends of Wisconsin Seeks Halt of All Highway Expansions

Group calls for an immediate halt to all new highway widening projects until the state conducts an audit of the traffic projections used to justify those projects.

By - May 27th, 2015 12:00 pm

1000 Friends of Wisconsin today called for an immediate halt to all new highway widening projects until the state conducts an audit of the traffic projections used to justify those projects. The moratorium and audit request comes on the heels of a federal court decision recently that halted the widening of Highway 23 near Fond du Lac because of unjustified and likely erroneous traffic counts predicted for the highway.

“Faulty planning at the Wisconsin Department of Transportation has likely cost taxpayers billions of dollars in unjustified projects,” said Steve Hiniker, Executive Director of 1000 Friends of Wisconsin.

Last year, the land use group studied traffic projections used to justify 11 state highway projects and found that the average over-count of actual traffic compared to predicted traffic was 75%.

“We call for an immediate, independent audit of all projects that are less 10% complete and an immediate moratorium on these projects until the completion of the audit. Misspending on unjustified highway projects means local transportation needs go unmet. Misspending also has hurt everything from school funding to fire and police protection as scarce general purpose revenues have been diverted for questionable highway projects,” added Hiniker.

Traffic projections are key for many highway expansion projects. The Wisconsin DOT has ignored a decade long trend of traffic trends and continues to predict unrealistic traffic growth as a way of justifying new projects. Typically, WisDOT also claims that widening is necessary for safety when, in fact, widening can make roads less safe by increasing speeds, which, in turn, increases the severity of auto crashes.

Even after cutting local transportation funds, the state’s Transportation Fund doesn’t have enough money to pay for all of the road expansion projects, so lawmakers have increasingly turned to the state general fund to pay for highway projects. This has led to cuts in education spending as well as cuts to all forms of aid for local government from recycling to fire and police protection.

“The misuse of the arcane practice of traffic forecasting has cost Wisconsin taxpayers billions of dollars. It is clear that the legislature must act immediately to protect taxpayers as well local road users,” added Hiniker.

The state budget offers the first opportunity to put Wisconsin on the right track. We have offered an alternative budget that cuts spending on four highway projects that have poor traffic forecasting and would save taxpayers $500 million. Some of those savings could be used to fix local roads which have been neglected by state policy makers for years, “concluded Hiniker.

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7 thoughts on “1000 Friends of Wisconsin Seeks Halt of All Highway Expansions”

  1. David says:

    Rethuglicans have been looting public workers wages, taxes, from education, to reward their benefactors through WEDC and new highway construction schemes. This is pay to play politics and corruption at the highest order. Walker and his appointed cronies belong in a jail cell.

    Planning needs to be a first order of business especially since many urban roads have been cheated on revenue sharing for decades and past replacement and potholes cost all drivers extra cost for tires and suspension repairs. The idea of also borrowing for this building binge is shifting the mess Rethuglicans have made to a future administration. They are utterly corrupt and unfit to hold office.

  2. J says:

    I’ll venture a guess that NOT ONE of the so-called 1000 is a transportation engineer. Your lib arts degrees are insufficient to understand how transportation engineers do planning.

    Just admit it, you’d much rather have the proletariat take trains and buses so that you, as the elite, can decide when and where they go.

  3. Tim says:

    Yeah, it’s just so hard to understand lots of cars causes traffic jams & driving too fast is deadly. I’d be in amazement if any of the transportation engineers ever were educated in comparative analysis or multi-year budgeting. They’re practically written a blank check every year by the state gov’t and still can’t seem to provide smooth roads where people are actually driving.

    I have to say, they have nailed the art of bypassing any town with it’s own gas station & diner… it’s just what they’re good at, we don’t need.

  4. David says:

    I will be driving the new 4-lane HW 26 from Johnson Creek to Watertown. It has spare traffic and the existing 2-lane worked fine. Now the huge 4-lane and intersections have removed thousands of acres of agriculture land out of production.

    This is another example of huge wasted resources when the state is borrowing over a billion dollars for new highways. If Walker wants new highways, tax gasoline and pay for them now and plan correctly.

  5. Tom D says:

    J (post 2), if you “venture a guess that NOT ONE of the so-called 1000 is a transportation engineer,” you would be wrong.

    Their “Director of Transportation Policy”, Ashwat Anandanarayanan, is just that—a transportation engineer, with a masters in transportation engineering from UW-Madison.


  6. AG says:

    I, of all people, support making intelligent decisions about highway reconstruction and expansion. However, it is clear to me that 1000 Friends is an organization that’s priorities in these cases is not to save money but to stop increases in auto use. It’s a detriment to the battle for smart highway construction to be anti-expansion in all cases. If their priority is saving tax payer money, they failed miserably in the HWY 23 project that they’ve recently delayed. Due to the continuous delays, the project will now cost the state many times more than it would have if completed on time in the 90’s.

    It’s clear they have a bias against the automobile. The sophomoric analysis on traffic patterns and their own projections show that they are either consciously choosing to ignore good information or they’re inept in recognizing it. For example, they have ignored that the traffic decline on I-94 came during a 15 year spike in oil prices, during a period of extensive road construction both on and bookending the segment, and other factors that will not continue into the future. Further, they ignore that even at current levels the east-west corridor is already beyond designed capacity.

    If Ashwat Anandanarayanan is indeed involved in these reports, I’m highly suspect of his motives. As a trained traffic engineer he should recognize the poor projections by the 1000 friends report. I give no love to the DOT’s rosey projections, but these are no better.

    1000 Friends’ blanket approach to stalling ALL highway expansion is a detriment to their cause, will ultimately cost tax payers money, and worst of all put more lives in danger because it delays safety improvements that can save lives.

  7. HGS says:

    Again there was a serious accident yesterday on Hwy 23 near Fond du Lac with serious injuries. How many more people need to lose a loved one before something is done? Last year there was a 4 year old killed and it might have been prevented had the highway been divided. Not long before that there was a woman killed on the same road. You say the count on the highway was wrong. I agree, I counted the cars going east last week at 10 a.m. and there were 408 in a half hour going one way. So, in an hour going both ways could be has high as 1632!!! I have counted cars many times and have counted anywhere from 269 to 394 cars going one way in a half hour. I think it is time for the families that lose loved ones on that highway to sue the 1000 Friends of WI because these accidents might not have happened on a divided highway. What about all those families that have been displaced for nothing if the highway doesn’t go through?

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