Road building gets lion's share; transit gets squat

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

From a column by James Rowen in The Capital Times:

John Norquist, transit advocate and former Milwaukee mayor for whom I worked from 1996 to 2004, used to joke that balanced transportation in Wisconsin meant "half asphalt, half concrete."

The line got a lot of laughs, but regrettably it's a true description of transportation spending in our state, and certainly in southeastern Wisconsin, where three current examples illustrate the primacy of road building to the detriment of transit services.

1. Waukesha and Milwaukee county governments have failed to come to a cost-sharing agreement to save Route 9, a Milwaukee County bus line that carries about 70 workers daily from Milwaukee to their jobs in Waukesha County. . . .

2. An upscale shopping mall is on the drawing board at the 1,500-acre planned community in western Waukesha County called Pabst Farms, at the outskirts of the city of Oconomowoc.

Someone forgot to pencil in an interchange off I-94 so shoppers could drive to the site, so in a matter of weeks this fall -- warp-speed for bureaucracies -- Waukesha County, the city of Oconomowoc, the state Transportation Department and the mall developer all pledged money toward the interchange's $25 million price tag. . . .

3. Transit also gets the complete brushoff in a massive, seven-county regional freeway system rebuilding and expansion that includes Milwaukee and Waukesha counties. . . .