WISPIRG Foundation
Press Release

WISDOT Disregards Community Opposition, Declining Driving, Proposes to Waste Taxpayer Money on Unneeded I-94 Expansion

WISDOT’s Preferred Option Is a ‘Billion Dollar Boondoggle’

By - Feb 17th, 2015 02:54 pm
Road Construction

Road Construction

MILWAUKEE – Today, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation announced that its preferred alternative for the I-94 East-West Corridor is an “at-grade” expansion. With traffic counts declining in the corridor, any expansion is unnecessary and will waste taxpayer money, while diverting resources away from other critical infrastructure repairs, including fixing bridges and potholes on local roads.

“The Wisconsin DOT has the wrong priorities and is doing a disservice to Wisconsin taxpayers who pay for our transportation system,” said Peter Skopec, WISPIRG Director.  “Rather than fixing it first and prioritizing the maintenance of our existing roads and bridges, the DOT wants to widen a highway where traffic counts have declined by 8 percent over the past 12 years.  The DOT is forging ahead with a ‘billion dollar boondoggle.’  Any responsible legislator should reject what the DOT has proposed.”

The WISDOT proposal disregards:

  • Data That Don’t Support Project: A September 2014 USPIRG report, “Highway Boondoggles: Wasteful Spending and America’s Future,” notes that the I-94 expansion is based on the presumption that traffic volumes are expected to grow by 2030.  In fact, traffic dropped in this corridor between 2009 and 2012, the latest year for which data are available.  Inexplicably, a 2014 WISDOT statement describing current traffic count numbers uses 2010 figures rather than the more recent 2012 figures, which are lower than the 2010 counts.  A 2014 1000 Friends of Wisconsin report found that traffic counts on this stretch of highway decreased 8 percent from 2000-2012.
  • Community Opposition: The City of Milwaukee has passed four resolutions opposing the highway expansion; Milwaukee County has also passed a resolution opposing expansion.  In addition, hundreds of community members have expressed public opposition to these options put forward by WISDOT, including hundreds that showed up to oppose any expansion of the highway at WISDOT’s Draft EIS public hearings in early December 2014.
  • Wasting Taxpayer Money: In addition to squandering resources on a project that data don’t support, unneeded highway expansion will divert billions of dollars away from the repair of existing local roads and other critical local transportation infrastructure all over Wisconsin.  For example, with limited resources dedicated to repair, the number of Wisconsin bridges that engineers have deemed “structurally deficient,” increased to 1,212 last year, according to the National Bridge Inventory tabulated by the Federal Highway Administration.

“The choice should be clear for state legislators working on the budget,” concluded Skopec. “Why are we talking about increasing state bonding by hundreds of millions of dollars and putting this wasteful expansion on the state’s credit card, the way Governor Walker has proposed, or increasing taxes on Wisconsinites? Instead, let’s get our transportation priorities straight – starting with a stop to the unnecessary expansion of I-94 in Milwaukee.”

WISPIRG is a statewide non-profit, non-partisan public interest advocacy organization that stands up to powerful special interests.   www.wispirg.org

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8 thoughts on “WISDOT Disregards Community Opposition, Declining Driving, Proposes to Waste Taxpayer Money on Unneeded I-94 Expansion”

  1. mbradleyc says:

    That is one opinion. There are others.

  2. David says:

    Drove on the new HW 26 near Watertown yesterday. Hardly any traffic on it. Another example of squandered DOT taxpayer funds and elimination of farmland. A modernized 2-lane would have been fine here. There are probably many of these examples around the state of wasted funds.

  3. Casey says:

    @David- agreed! I take 141 into NW Marinette County. 15 years or so ago you would hit every small town and it was only a two lane but very nice hwy. It was a really nice drive and you transition into the Northwoods. Now its mostly a limited access 4 lane hwy moving so fast you don’t really feel up north and now it passes the small towns. This has led many of the small shops and diners to dry up. It saves me maybe 20 minutes on my drive from Milwaukee and probably cost hundreds of millions of dollars. The only time its somewhat busy is holiday weekends and deer season.

  4. David Jorling says:

    The Koch brothers must be happy.

  5. Rich says:

    I could’ve gone either way on the cemetery part…I think the real loss is the 27th st option. That downhill s-curve @ 25th st is what causes most of the backups east of the Stadium. Today, the stadium to 35th st has its own problems, but any regular driver will note that they don’t clear up until east of 25th…

  6. AG says:

    The DOT traffic volumes end in 2010 because the 2012 figures weren’t out when the study began. Also, using the 2012 numbers is extremely inaccurate because 2011 and 2012 was greatly affected by the I-94 resurfacing project. Capacity was down, thus volume was down. Imagine the volumes without the resurfacing project or the zoo interchange going on. It’d be much higher… I can attest to that as I battle with other local traffic on side roads during the zoo project.

    Regardless, even if no lanes were added this would be nearly the same cost because everything is being rebuilt for safety reasons. Frankly, I don’t mind the extra tax payer money for safer roads. That also means the extra money for the double deck option so we can keep the safer 12 ft lanes.

    Opportunity lost though I guess.

  7. Paul says:

    People are complaining about a freeway expansion that we all drive on and is used to transport our goods but are willing to spend a billion in taxpayers money on a streetcar that does less than the buses do now.

  8. Tim says:

    It would be one thing if these road projects paid for themselves with gas taxes or tolls, but they don’t. We pay for these projects through our property taxes, sales taxes, income taxes in addition to the gas tax & fees we pay directly.

    I was about to ask why WI keeps doing this, then I remembered the other article on urbanmilwaukee “Lobbyists Spent $57.5 Million on 2013-’14 Legislative Session”… of course, we all have free speech, it’s just the roadbuilders speech is a little louder when they & other lobbyists can afford to spend $57.5 Million dollars crafting the budget.

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