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

Reforming Wisconsin’s Transportation Priorities

In 2015, WISPIRG and our coalition partners urged legislators to stop billion-dollar highway boondoggles, like the I-94 expansion, and our hard work paid off: The expansion of I-94 is on hold indefinitely, and we will work to stop it for good before the next budget debate begins in 2017. Just as significant is that legislators have taken up our call to examine the Department of Transportation’s flawed traffic forecasts by ordering an audit of the State Highway Program.

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Blog Post | Transportation

Why Is Our Infrastructure So Terrible? | Sean Doyle

America is facing a $1.4 trillion infrastructure funding crisis. This isn't some distant problem; it's already having a real effect on everyday Americans.

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Blog Post | Transportation

Good Things Come to Those On Bikes | Sean Doyle

Pull the bike out of the closet, pump up those tires, and dust off the helmet because it's Bike to Work Week!

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Blog Post | Transportation

Don’t Believe the Hype – Millennials’ Transportation Habits Are Changing | Sean Doyle

Despite news stories claiming that Millennials are buying up cars at record rates, the reality is quite different. After adjusting previous studies to account for differences in the size of the generations measured, on a per-capita basis, Millennials are 29 percent less likely than members of Generation X to own a car.

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Blog Post | Transportation

Breaking the Silence on Transportation and the Climate

Transportation policy-makers in most states and at the federal level have simply never seen it as their business to consider, much less act to reduce, the climate impacts of their infrastructure investment decisions. The Obama administration’s actions last week, however tentative, suggest that that is about to change.

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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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News Release | WISPIRG Foundation | Transportation

New Survey: Wisconsin Brain Drain Partly Because Youth Seek Alternatives to Driving?

For the last decade, Wisconsin has been experiencing a “brain drain,” with more college graduates leaving the state than staying. One factor could be our crumbling transit infrastructure and lack of driving alternatives, according to a new WISPIRG Foundation report.  The new survey revealed that most Wisconsin college students want the ability to get around without a car, and many may leave Wisconsin without that option. This demand starkly contrasts with Wisconsin transportation policies, which often favor extravagant highway expansion projects over critical transit upgrades.

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News Release | WISPIRG | Transportation

U.S. DOT Report on Infrastructure Needs Overstates Future Increases in Driving

The US DOT seems to be stuck in a bizarre time warp.  For nine years in a row Americans have decreased their average driving miles. We haven’t seen an annual increase of even one percent in total vehicle miles since 2004. Yet, US DOT forecasts that total vehicle miles will increase between 1.36 percent to 1.85 percent each year through 2030. That doesn’t make sense.

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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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Report | WISPIRG | Transportation

Aging in Place, Stuck Without Options

The first baby boomers turn 65 years old this year and seniors in eight Wisconsin metro areas are in danger of being unable to get around. The largest generation in history, Boomers are also the most dependent on automobile travel. Yet by 2015, more than half of seniors ages 65 and older in these eight Wisconsin cities will live in communities with poor options for people who do not drive, according to a new report.

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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.

News Release | WISPIRG

At a Milwaukee Press Club event on Tuesday, Governor Walker questioned whether the state should continue spending billions of dollars on highway expansions at a time when transportation preferences are changing, and when there is a pressing need to maintain existing infrastructure. 

Blog Post

The Trump administration is making some pretty outlandish claims to justify its roll back of the nation’s most effective program at fighting climate change. Asserting that stronger fuel economy standards make our roads less safe, the administration moved last week to weaken Obama-era clean car standards -- but their claims just aren’t true.

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