Billion dollar blunder

For years, planners and engineers have known that it is impossible to build ourselves out of congestion. Adding lanes to highways has a slew of negative effects, including induced demand, increased crashes, sprawl and environmental degradation. However, the State of Wisconsin continues to pour in money for large-scale highway infrastructure projects which data show are neither warranted nor desired by the public.

Our analysis shows that the state of Wisconsin will be facing a $1billion shortfall in revenues each year by 2020 if we keep spending transportation money at the same rate. This year alone, we are borrowing nearly $1billion for large highway projects, paid for mostly by general obligation bonds. In addition to the enormous capital costs, these highways come with a hefty price tag for general operations and maintenance – which are not even accounted for in the state budget.

Instead of spending Wisconsinites’ hard earned money on gold-plated highways, the state should be focusing on creating a balanced transportation system which affords its citizens a variety of travel choices. We should be investing in diverse transportation modes, such as high speed rail, urban and rural public transportation, and bicycle/pedestrian infrastructure while also focusing on efficiently managing our existing highway infrastructure.

It is no longer acceptable to borrow from our children’s future for highways they did not ask for, nor will use.

by Ash Anandanarayanan
Transportation Program Associate