News Release

Spending Gone Wild on Questionable Projects

Does Governor Walker's Highways Proposal Advance the Public Interest or Waste Taxpayer Money?
For Immediate Release

Madison – Despite promises to eliminate government waste and fix potholes, Governor Scott Walker has taken an ax to state aids for local road repair and transit services, while proposing four highly questionable highway projects that could end up costing Wisconsin taxpayers over $2 billion.  A new WISPIRG report examines these four highway projects and finds that Wisconsin taxpayers could be footing the bill to build boondoggles.

“Governor Walker’s transportation budget is spending gone wild on questionable projects,” said Bruce Speight, WISPIRG Director.  “Rather than prioritizing Wisconsin’s existing roads and transit service, Governor Walker has chosen extravagant and unnecessary ribbon-cutting projects..”

The new report, Building Boondoggles: Is Governor Walker Spending Billions on Four Roads to Nowhere?, examines official documents and finds unanswered questions, outdated justifying data, and insufficient review for the four new major highway projects proposed by Governor Scott Walker.  The findings of the report include:

·         The traffic count and crash data used for the I-90 widening project south of Madison is both nearly 10 years old and does not support widening lanes as a mitigation measure.  Additionally, WisDOT has inexplicably chosen the most expensive option for construction in every case on this project. Predictions for the cost of this project range from $715 million to $1.5 billion.

·         The official internal statement for the $125 million Highway 15 widening project in Outagamie County states that an intersection improvement might be a lower-cost and viable alternative to a major highway constructions project.  It also states that without additional spending the Level of Service on the road likely won’t deteriorate until 2040!

Governor Walker proposes a 13 percent increase in funding for highways, totaling $328 million.  At the same time, the proposal cuts local transportation assistance by $48 million and transit services by $10 million.  With the increase in funding for highways alone, state leaders could restore cuts to transit and local transportation assistance and increase it nearly five-fold without increasing the overall transportation budget.

WISPIRG recommends that state leaders reject these four projects until further review can determine whether they are needed.  Most importantly, WISPIRG recommends that state leaders restore funding for local road repair and transit services – urgent and important transportation needs.  Finally, WISPIRG recommends that state leaders review the transportation planning and review process to ensure that taxpayer money is not diverted to unnecessary projects in the future.

“What happened to the promise to fix potholes and rein in government spending?  Governor Walker seems to have lost his way. The Joint Finance Committee and state Legislature can and should fix this by restoring state aid for local road repair and transit services,” concludes Speight.

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