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

Blog Post | Transportation

To Build A 21st Century America, Start Here | Jeff Robinson

The stakes in the current infrastructure debate are high. But what matters most is not the size of any federal infrastructure package, nor how it is financed, nor even how many jobs it creates in the coming years. What matters most is building the infrastructure that will enable America to respond to the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century.

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News Release | WISPIRG | Budget, Transportation

Coalition Celebrates Final Rejection of Expensive I-94 E/W Expansion

MILWAUKEE - The United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) stated that it would formally rescind its approval for the proposed I-94 East-West expansion between the Zoo and Marquette Interchanges in Milwaukee. Governor Walker and the state legislature had refused to fund the expansion in the recently signed biennial budget, and Wisconsin Transportation Secretary Ross had asked USDOT to withdraw its record of decision approving the project.

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News Release | WISPIRG | Transportation

Statement on WISDOT Sec. Ross’s Push to Rescind Approval for I-94 East-West Expansion

WISDOT Secretary Ross is pushing to rescind the federal Record of Decision for the proposed I-94 East-West expansion project in Milwaukee, which would stop this billion-dollar boondoggle indefinitely. WISPIRG Director Peter Skopec issued the following statement in response.

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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 | 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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News Release | WISPIRG | Transportation

I-94 Corridor Draft EIS Options Disregard Data, Community and Taxpayer Concerns

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WISDOT) issued a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that proposes two costly options for expanding I-94 in Milwaukee. The study ignores community opposition to the expansion and concerns over detrimental local impacts of the expansion.  The EIS also disregards data showing that traffic volumes in the corridor are declining and which call into question the need for expanding the interstate.

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News Release | WISPIRG Foundation | Transportation

New Study: Traffic Data Does Not Support Spending on I-94 Expansion

A new report by WISPIRG Foundation calls the I-94 double decker expansion one of 11 examples of wasteful highway spending based on its outdated assumptions of ever-increasing driving. The study, which details ten other highway “boondoggles” across the country, points to data showing that traffic counts on this stretch of I-94 have been dropping in recent years, despite WISDOT projections that traffic would increase.  The study calls for the state to consider reprioritizing scarce transportation dollars to other projects.

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News Release | WISPIRG Foundation | Transportation

New Report: Unneeded Wisconsin Highway Expansions Will Waste Billions That Should Be Spent on Badly Needed Local Road Repairs, Other Transportation Statewide

A new WISPIRG Foundation report offers a simple, common-sense way to reform transportation spending in Wisconsin.  The state is currently slated to spend nearly $3 billion on four unneeded highway expansion projects, such as the double decker expansion of I-94 in Milwaukee.  Meanwhile, local transportation infrastructure is in disrepair.  We could implement all the recommendations of the 2013 bi-partisan Transportation Policy and Finance Commission for local road repair, transit, bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, and the rehabilitation of state-owned roads, for the next 10 years, for just over $1 billion. The report, Fork in the Road: Will Wisconsin Waste Money on Unneeded Highway Expansion or Invest in 21st Century Transportation Priorities?, makes clear the choice before state leaders – either spend taxpayer dollars on these highly questionable highway expansion projects, or invest in urgent and underfunded local and state-owned road repair and other 21st century priorities.  

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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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Report | WISPIRG | Transportation

The 10% Solution

Wisconsin taxpayer dollars shouldn’t be wasted on unnecessary and costly highway expenditures, when local transportation infrastructure is crumbling.  Unfortunately, the transportation budget being considered by state leaders increases spending on highways while neglecting local needs.  It’s time to get our transportation priorities straight and invest taxpayer dollars wisely, maintaining a modern highway system while meeting local road repair and transit needs. The 10% Solution offers a budget alternative that achieves these goals.
 

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Report | WISPIRG Foundation | Transportation

Highway Boom, Budget Bust

This report questions whether the state of Wisconsin might be wasting huge sums of taxpayer money on unnecessary projects by planning to invest heavily in new roads and highway expansions that are out of sync with population and travel behavior trends in the state.  On the one hand, Wisconsin’s population and its volume of driving grow at a relatively slow pace that has slowed over time.

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Report | WISPIRG Foundation | Transportation

Transportation and the New Generation

A new report released today by the WISPIRG Foundation and the Frontier Group demonstrates that Wisconsinites, like drivers across the country, have been driving less since the middle of the last decade. The report, Transportation and the New Generation: Why Young People are Driving Less and What it Means for Transportation Policy, shows that young people in particular are decreasing the amount they drive and increasing their use of transportation alternatives.

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Report | WISPIRG | Transportation

Fixing It First

With President Obama calling for robust investments in repairing America's crumbling roads and bridges today, WISPIRG released data today documenting the number of "structurally deficient" bridges in Wisconsin.

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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

WISPIRG is one of many members of the Coalition for More Responsible Transportation (CMRT), which includes environmental organizations, faith and social justice groups, public transit advocates, and others. This week, CMRT is holding a Week of Action to draw attention to the need for better public transportation in Wisconsin. One of the ways we’re doing that is by asking transit riders across the state to share their public transportation stories with us. In this guest post, our summer campaign associate Macklyn Hutchison writes on her conversations with transit riders about their experience with the public transportation system.

News Release | WISPIRG

Gov. Tony Evers today signed Wisconsin’s 2019-21 biennial budget, which includes positive steps to accelerate the state’s transition to electric vehicles and invests in Wisconsin’s local transportation infrastructure, including public transit.

Blog Post

This is the second of a two-part guest post on public transportation in China, New York City and Wisconsin from Pei Wang, who interned with us this spring semester.

News Release | WISPIRG

As the legislature takes up the state budget this week, a coalition of consumer, civil rights and environmental organizations urged decisionmakers to prioritize investments in public transportation and local road maintenance, and to reject any new highway expansion projects in Wisconsin’s transportation spending plan.

Blog Post

To kick off our 21st Century Transportation blog, we're featuring a two-part guest post on public transportation in China, New York City and Wisconsin from Pei Wang, who interned with us this spring semester.

Transportation | U.S. PIRG

Volkswagen settlement scorecard

Volkswagen was caught cheating emissions laws and settled with federal authorities. The settlement included nearly $3 billion for the Environmental Mitigation Trust. How well does our state rank on plans for investing VW mitigation trust funds in clean transportation projects?

 
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