Thursday, May 16, 2013

Bauman Battles For Milwaukee Roads

A recent ruling by Federal Judge Lynn Adelman has put the whole plan to
Ald. Robert Bauman
reconstruct the Zoo Interchange and rebuilding and expanding I-94 between Downtown Milwaukee and the Zoo Interchange in limbo.  The reason was the state's haste to get it done no matter what attitude:
Federal Judge Lynn Adelman, in a May 10 order, wrote the state is not considering the regional effects of the Zoo Interchange and other highway expansion projects, and instead is only looking at a smaller area around the interchange itself. He also faults the DOT for not considering the long-term, regional affects of the growth of regional highways and a shrinkage of public transit.

The lawsuit filed in August 2012 challenged the $1.7 billion Zoo Interchange reconstruction plan, alleging it does not meet federal requirements for consideration of alternatives, or to ensure all ethnic populations would benefit equally. The American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin filed the lawsuit on Monday on behalf of Milwaukee Inner-City Congregations Allied for Hope and the Black Health Coalition of Wisconsin.
The gentle reader can get more detail on the issue here.

Milwaukee Alderman Robert Bauman jumped on this ruling to make a money saving suggestion on how to redistribute the money:
The alderman said the DOT should immediately suspend the environmental review process for the I-94 project and cancel public information meetings scheduled for May 21 and 22, 2013, so that the impact of Judge Adelman’s decision on this project can be fully assessed.

In the meantime, Alderman Bauman is recommending the DOT immediately consider a new alternative. That alternative would spend $370 million to reconstruct I-94 from 25th St. to 70th St. and allocate the savings between this option and the expansion option -- as much as $830 million -- to three other infrastructure investments. Specifically, the state should spend 1/3 of the savings on repairing and reconstructing local roads and streets which, especially in Milwaukee,are in badly deteriorated condition; spend 1/3 on repairing other state highways and bridges; and spend 1/3 on expanding the Milwaukee Streetcar to UW-Milwaukee on the east side, Miller Park on the west side, the 30th Street Corridor on the north side, and to Walker’s Point on the south side.
Well, I'm not entirely sure how Bauman's proposal fits into the court ruling. But regardless of that, Bauman's proposal does merit serious consideration.

I would, however, make one change to Bauman's proposal, which is to split the savings in two ways instead of three. The money should be split in a 60%-40% or 65%-45% ratio. The major amount would be redirected to road repair and/or reconstruction. I do a lot of driving within Milwaukee County due to my job, and let me tell you, these roads are in very rough shape. Even the potholes have potholes.

The remainder could be spent on expansion of the street car. I would also drop the expansion to Miller Park and have it elongated to include the Bay View area. A streetcar system going through Bay View would probably prove to be a lot more viable and popular.

It would also help serve in picking up the slack in Milwaukee's Transit System, which will only get worse with the greater transit budget cuts coming up.

All of this would go the extra mile in making Milwaukee into a better place for economic development and revitalization. Much more than Scott Walker paying back the road builders Chris Abele's desire to cater to only his plutocratic pals.

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