2.3.17

RETHINKING THE CONVENTIONAL WISDOM.

Wisconsin governor Scott Walker discovers that there's not enough money in the till to widen Interstates 90-94-39 between Madison and the Wisconsin Dells.
The memo comes at a time when Walker is standing against raising the gas tax and some of his fellow Republicans who control the Legislature are calling for finding another $300 million for highways over the next two years.

Wisconsin might not need to build as many lanes of highways as it has in the past because of changing technology and work habits, Walker said. He noted driverless cars could be on roads in the near future and young people are increasingly choosing not to buy cars and relying on services like Uber and Lyft to get around.

"I think part of it is going to be looking ahead and determining whether or not there are better ways we can do those projects in the future," Walker told reporters. "I’ve asked (Transportation Secretary David) Ross to look at...whether or not those bidding on those projects are able to deliver at the price that fits the needs of the taxpayers. So we want to make sure that we’re using every dollar wisely."
Democrats, Republicans, the state is that grand fiction by which everyone attempts to live at the expense of everyone else.  And if motor fuel tax revenues aren't sufficient to pay for the road repairs, and motorists balk at paying more fuel taxes, what does that do to the argument that the road network pays for itself?  But I digress.

Meanwhile, the existing highway is, as the locution has it, crumbling infrastructure, with the Wisconsin River bridges, in particular, being in rough shape.
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation has stopped studying a potential expansion of interstate highways from Madison to Wisconsin Dells, a sign the department may be downsizing its road-building ambitions in the face of mounting budget pressure.

The move appears to foreclose any near-term efforts to expand a corridor that carries growing volumes of traffic, much of it tourism-based, from southern Wisconsin and Illinois to Wisconsin Dells and other points north and west.

In February the department said the corridor would experience “significant problems” from traffic congestion if it is not expanded.
But expanding the corridor by building more lanes simply means congestion from construction delays followed by congestion with induced traffic.  On the other hand, failure to maintain the Wisconsin River bridges in a state of good repair means congestion from lane closures (to rebuild under traffic) or congestion from detours.  But achieving a state of good repair to maintain the existing state of congestion might make more sense than attempting to alleviate congestion by facilitating new congestion.  Oh, and look at the rent-seekers!
Zach Brandon, president of the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce, said expanding the interstate is “an economic necessity in part due to the increasing number of logistics companies in the Greater Madison region.”

“Without a comprehensive long-term vision from the state for funding transportation in a sustainable way, it is not surprising that projects like these are being delayed,” Brandon said.
Any business project will look better if somebody else is picking up the tab. Why should the logistics companies be any different from any other recipient of corporate welfare? (Hint: the railroads are investor-owned. There's existing right-of-way where a second track might come in handy. And there used to be several fast trains a day calling at the Dells.)

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