Would we have said no to the interstate?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

From a column by Dave Zweifel in The Capital Times:

Imagine that back in 1953, Wisconsin decided not to take part in President Eisenhower’s interstate highway system because it wasn’t any costlier for Wisconsin drivers to travel from Madison to Milwaukee on old Highway 30 than it would be to spend tens of millions of dollars to build I-94 between Wisconsin’s two largest cities.

So what if the federal government was going to pick up 90 percent of the cost of construction, the anti-interstate people would argue. Think of all the costs we’d have to bear to maintain the four-lane superhighway, not to mention having to upgrade bridges and intersections somewhere down the line. Some soothsayer might even predict that, hey, in 60 years or so we’d probably have to replace the big downtown intersection in Milwaukee at a cost of $900 million or the one near the zoo to the tune of a billion dollars.

Let some other clueless state have the money, they’d say. We don’t have enough money now for state and county roads as it is and the interstate costs would eat into what scarce resources we have.

Ridiculous? No, not really, because that’s exactly what politicians like Scott Walker and the chorus of “let’s stop the train” zealots are saying about high-speed rail, which in the short run would link Madison and Milwaukee, and in the long run would link to Minneapolis, Chicago and the nation beyond.