21st Century Transportation

Wisconsin can’t afford more extravagant highway projects, especially when urgent local road repair and transit needs are being neglected. It’s time to get our transportation priorities straight and invest Wisconsin taxpayer dollars wisely, not wastefully.

Highway Waste Undermines 21st Century Transportation in Wisconsin

Demand for transportation alternatives is skyrocketing, and our roads and bridges are crumbling. Yet instead of meeting our changing transportation needs, our state budget continues to funnel billions of dollars into shortsighted new highway projects.

We need a transportation system that reflects and supports the way we want to travel now.

With gas prices up and lifestyles changing, we are driving less and taking transit, walking, and biking more.  The average Wisconsinite drove 500 fewer miles in 2010 than in 2004, and between 2001 and 2009 young people’s travel on public transportation increased by 40% nationwide. Meanwhile, recent reports found that 1,100 Wisconsin bridges are structurally deficient, and 43% of our roads are in “less than good” condition.

By shifting our transportation budget away from expensive new highways, we can invest in efficient public transportation systems like intercity rail and clean bus systems, and make sure that our existing infrastructure is safe and functional for decades to come.

Unfortunately, the highway lobby and big road construction firms won’t easily let go of their high-priced, taxpayer-funded highway contracts. They’ve lobbied hard, and Governor Walker has listened — he has increased spending on new highways at the expense of everything else.

With state leaders considering the next two-year budget, now is the time to fight for Wisconsin’s transportation future. With enough public support, we can overcome the road builders and their lobbyists, and make sure Gov. Walker and state leaders get behind a transportation plan that will best benefit Wisconsin taxpayers.  
 

Issue updates

News Release | Transportation

Highway Administration Reinstates Clean Air Rule In Response to Lawsuit

In a victory for climate and clean air, the Federal Highway Administration responded to a lawsuit brought by U.S. PIRG, NRDC, and the Southern Environmental Law Center on behalf of Clean Air Carolina by reinstating a federal requirement that state and local planners track and curb carbon pollution from cars and trucks on the national highways, which is a major contributor to climate change.

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News Release | WISPIRG | Budget, Transportation

No to Expansion of I-94 East-West “A Big Win for Taxpayers”

The transportation budget signed today by Governor Walker does not give the green light to the billion-dollar expansion of I-94 between the Zoo and Marquette Interchanges in Milwaukee, but includes more money for local infrastructure maintenance. The package also modestly increases funding for public transportation. 

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News Release | WISPIRG | Budget, Transportation

Statement by WISPIRG Director Peter Skopec Ahead of Transportation Budget Meeting

As the Joint Finance Committee finalizes the biennial transportation budget, WISPIRG Director Peter Skopec issued the following statement in advance of today’s JFC meeting:

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Report | WISPIRG Foundation | Make VW Pay, Transportation

From Deceit to Transformation

Volkswagen (VW) perpetuated a fraud on the American people, deceiving consumers into believing that they were getting the best possible combination of performance and sustainability. But VW’s promises were nothing more than lies that significantly harmed our collective health and the health of our environment. Yet, their deceit now represents a historic opportunity to drastically reduce harmful pollution that makes us sick and destroys the planet, while also providing an essential down payment toward the transition to a clean and modern 21st century transportation system.

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Blog Post | Budget, Transportation

Community Forums this Fall: Transportation and Equity in Wisconsin | Peter Skopec

This fall, WISPIRG and our partners at the Sierra Club, 1000 Friends of Wisconsin and WISDOM are hosting a series of community events across Wisconsin. As state leaders begin to debate the future of transportation funding in Wisconsin, we'll explore the impacts of the transportation system on communities in our state and discuss the importance of investing in local priorities. Join us for an event near you by RSVPing at tinyurl.com/TranspoForumsWI!

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News Release | WISPIRG Foundation | Budget, Transportation

New Report Finds Drivers Pay Less Than Half the Cost of Roads

As state lawmakers prepare to debate Wisconsin’s transportation budget and Congress struggles to renew the federal transportation law, a new report from WISPIRG Foundation and Frontier Group finds that drivers currently pay less than half the total cost of roads nationwide, and argues that while increasing gas taxes could temporarily fill the transportation funding shortfall, it would leave other, deeper problems unaddressed.

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News Release | WISPIRG | Transportation

WISDOT Disregards Community Opposition, Declining Driving, Proposes to Waste Taxpayer Money on Unneeded I-94 Expansion

Today, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation announced that its preferred alternative for the I-94 East-West Corridor is an “at-grade” expansion. With traffic counts declining in the corridor, any expansion is unnecessary and will waste taxpayer money, while diverting resources away from other critical infrastructure repairs, including fixing bridges and potholes on local roads.

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News Release | WISPIRG Foundation | Transportation

As Federal Highway Administration Acknowledges the Driving Boom is Over, Will WISDOT Follow Suit?

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has quietly acknowledged that the Driving Boom is over, cutting its forecasted driving estimates by between 24 percent and 44 percent.  Meanwhile, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WISDOT) continues to forecast increases in driving that aren’t materializing - a policy that risks wasting billions of taxpayer dollars. WISDOT is also claiming a $680 million shortfall in current transportation funding, a significant portion of which is to accommodate unnecessary expansions of highway capacity. 

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News Release | WISPIRG | Transportation

Coalition Unveils Better Solution for I-94 East-West Corridor

Two weeks after WISDOT issued a draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) that proposes two costly and wasteful highway expansion options for the I-94 East-West corridor – a coalition is offering a new alternative aimed at enabling 21st century mobility in the corridor and developed by a 25-year transportation planner and NJ DOT veteran.  

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News Release | WISPIRG | Transportation

WISDOT Budget Request: Higher Taxes, More Wasteful Spending and Misplaced Priorities

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s (WISDOT) biennial budget request, released on Friday, proposes to slam Wisconsin taxpayers with a $751 million increase in taxes and fees.  At the same time, the budget request does nothing to address the irresponsible and misplaced spending of a Department that prioritizes squandering public money on unneeded highway expansion projects over urgent repair of local roads, transit systems, and bridges all over Wisconsin. 

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Report | WISPIRG Foundation | Transportation

A New Course

Across America, colleges and universities are showing that efforts aimed at reducing driving deliver powerful benefits for students, staff and surrounding communities. Policymakers at all levels of government should be looking to the innovative examples of these campuses. Universities and college towns also provide useful models for expanding the range of transportation options available to Americans while addressing the transportation challenges facing our communities.

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Report | WISPIRG Foundation | Transportation

Transportation in Transition

Americans’ transportation habits have changed. The average American drives 7.6 percent fewer miles today than when per-capita driving peaked in 2004. A review of data from the Federal Highway Administration, Federal Transit Administration and Census Bureau for America’s 100 most populous urbanized areas – which are home to over half of the nation’s population – shows that the decline in per-capita driving has taken place in a wide variety of regions.

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Report | WISPIRG Foundation | Transportation

A New Way to Go

America is in the midst of a technological revolution … and a big shift in our transportation habits. Over the last 15 years, the Internet and mobile communications technologies have transformed the way Americans live and work. During that same period, growth in vehicle travel slowed and then stopped, with Americans today driving about as much on average as we did in 1996.

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Report | WISPIRG Foundation | Transportation

Road Overkill

A new report from the WISPIRG Foundation finds that usage of seven recently completed highways has not developed as projected, and questions whether building massive and costly new highways is the best way to spend Wisconsin’s scarce transportation resources. The report, Road Overkill: Wisconsin Spends Big on Questionable Highways Even as Driving Declines, also finds that Wisconsinites are driving less per capita today than we did in 1997, further raising doubts as to whether expensive new highways are the best investments for Wisconsin’s transportation future. 

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Report | WISPIRG Foundation | Transportation

A New Direction

The Driving Boom—a six decade-long period of steady increases in per-capita driving in the United States—is over.  Americans drive fewer total miles today than we did eight years ago, and fewer per person than we did at the end of Bill Clinton’s first term. The unique combina­tion of conditions that fueled the Driving Boom—from cheap gas prices to the rapid expansion of the workforce during the Baby Boom generation—no longer exists.

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Blog Post | Transportation

Millennials Want More Public Transportation | Sean Doyle

A new poll shows that access to public transportation is “very important” for Millennials in considering where to live and where to work.  The results support our research over the past few years that found Millennials are driving less than older generations and are more prone to walk, bike, or take transit to get where they need to go.

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Blog Post | Transportation

Communities Roaring for More TIGER Grants | Sean Doyle

Across the country, municipalities are looking for more transportation funding, particularly for public transportation. A recent poll from Politico magazine found that among mayors, aging and deteriorating transportation infrastructure was the most often cited concern. Enter TIGER grants.

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Blog Post | Transportation

How Deadly are Your State’s Roads? | Sean Doyle

A new report by Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute shows which states have the safest and most dangerous roads.  Here's how the states rank and what we can do about it.

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Blog Post | Transportation

Support SB259 - Supporting Better Transit in Wisconsin | Bruce Speight

Testimony by WISPIRG's Bruce Speight in support of SB259, which would allow the Fox Valley to create a Regional Transit Authority (RTA). Municipal leaders across Wisconsin are eagerly seeking better transit in their communities for its economic development benefits, to appeal to a new generation that is less focused on driving, and to connect workers to jobs.  Efficient public transportation systems would make Wisconsin’s transportation future better for everyone by reducing traffic congestion and pollution and increasing our options for getting around.

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Blog Post | Transportation

US House Transportation Bill for the 19th Century, not the 21st CenturyBruce SpeightPhineas Baxandall

With much fanfare and 854 days late, the U.S. House last week introduced bills to fund our nation's transportation system for the next five years. The new rules for spending $260 billion over five years would be tilted more toward highways with less going to buses, rail, biking and pedestrian trails. Given the nation's urgent need to reduce our addiction to oil, that in itself would have been a tragedy.

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Blog Post

If we want Wisconsin's young adults to stay here—and improve the quality of life for everyone in our state—we should offer better transportation options.

Blog Post

Talk about a captive market: For most of us, it's next to impossible to work, shop or go to school without a car. Auto lenders are taking full advantage.

Report | WISPIRG Foundation

Car culture no longer represents the “American Dream” for young Americans. Many young people today prefer car-light, multimodal lifestyles that allow them to get around efficiently, multitask while commuting, and feel connected to their communities. Millennials are drawn to the high quality of life in places that offer extensive and safe walking and biking options, as well as clean, fast, and efficient public transportation networks. Moreover, this preference for multimodal lifestyles appears to be influencing young people’s decisions about where to live and work.

News Release | WISPIRG Foundation

A new WISPIRG Foundation study released today found that investing in public transit and walking and biking infrastructure could help Wisconsin attract and retain young adults. The report, entitled Millennials on the Move, also indicates that Wisconsin’s current transportation policy priorities – which have focused on expanding major highways at the expense of maintaining existing infrastructure and funding public transit, walking and biking – will fail to create the type of system young adults desire and Wisconsin needs.

News Release | WISPIRG

Governor-elect Tony Evers this morning nominated Craig Thompson, executive director of the roadbuilding and transportation infrastructure advocacy group TDA, to run the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. WISPIRG Director Peter Skopec issued the following statement in response to Gov.-elect Evers’ announcement.

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