Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Zoo Interchange

I've gotten in to a few debates about the interchange project. Because of the cost of the project, there's some sentiment that it shouldn't be done, or that it should be scaled back . . . a lot. A few thoughts on some of the misguided arguments.

First, we need to start at some intersection of information, if you will. A few things we can agree on. One, our freeway isn't very efficient thanks to the decisions made in the 60's of not finishing 41 and providing a northern bypass. A direct quote from the Director of the DOT: "And because Milwaukee only built 60 percent of the freeways that it originally planned for . . . "

We're a little lucky in that we don't have far to go east. Still, when you look at other cities, Milwaukee's freeway system is very under built. You can argue we're not that big and that it may not be necessary to have bypasses all over the place. Fine with me. That also means we don't need trains of any sort.

Second, the system is old. As such, it's inefficient in many areas. The Zoo interchange is one of those areas.

Third, the interchange gets a lot of traffic. A lot. It wouldn't be very responsible to ignore its needs from both a maintenance standpoint and a repair standpoint. Considering how much traffic travels through the interchange, it's not well designed.

Now, let's also do away with some other issues. First, comparing the Zoo interchange with the Marquette interchange. Let's keep in mind that the Zoo interchange is in the proposal stage and that the cost of the Marquette interchange is now known as it's finished. Even with the MI, developers revised original plans to make the project more "community friendly". What ever that means. The project also came in under budget. As far as I'm concerned, the MI isn't perfect, by any means.

Point is, you simply cannot compare one interchange project with another.

As for some other issues . . . one being that it won't decrease travel time much. That the amount of money being spent for 5 minutes is crazy . . . First, no one is making any great claims about reducing congestion and travel times. I've made the argument that by increasing lanes you'd obviously decrease congestion . . . at least, to a point. But, no one made any great claims about the MI, and no one is making any great claim about the ZI. Much of the reconstruction is simply about repair, and as long as we're repairing let's make it as better as we can.

Costs and lack of government money. Who cares? We pay an incredibly high amount of tax specifically for the purpose of our roads. I want to see that money spent on improving our roads!

Affordability. Talk to Doyle. Better yet, get him out of office. He's been raiding the transportation fund for years and is mostly to blame for any lack of ability to pay. Plus, while I'm certainly the type of person who doesn't like to see government spending money it doesn't have no matter what, I'm not sure why we're so concerned about this now with this project. Wasteful over spending is the new pink! Plus, plus, at least this project is worthy. To me, anyway. Fact is, maintenance needs to be done. The project includes road issues that extend way beyond the interchange itself in all directions. A such, yes. That makes the project more costly than just maintenance on the interchange would cost. It becomes a decision of practicality. As long as we're breaking ground repairing the interchange, address the other issues right away. Doing so actually reduces the cost over waiting until later to start another new project.

Here's a great line: It will improve safety, but not much else. Well, people's safety certainly isn't important. Deaths, accidents, injuries . . . non of those things have a cost associated with them. Pffft. You call that a reason?

We have alternatives. Well, no we don't. Ask someone who lives in Sussex, Butler, west Menomonee Falls . . . heck, even the northwest side of Milwaukee what those alternatives are. Congestion on the streets is no treat. It's been proven that getting to where you need to be quickly is better for the environment and pollution. One might might to poo poo the 5 minutes, but it was Obummer himself who said we'd save millions in barrels of oil is we just keep out tires properly inflated. He's not wrong. It was a stupid argument against drilling, but the statement isn't wrong. That 5 minutes times 35,000 cars times 250 days equals a lot of pollutants saved.

Taking the streets, however, would add plenty of time to a person's commute, increasing pollutants even more. More than that, though, I, and many others, simply do not want to add to their commute time if possible. I'd rather spend that time with my family. And if improvements can be made to help shorten my commute time . . . even 5 minutes makes me all the happier about commuting to and from work.

Lastly, I love the ". . . people should be sensible enough to live closer to where they work." That is such a disingenuous and shallow argument it's practically retarded. You know what? I wish that, too! Gee, I never thought of that! I'll just give up 10 years of tenure, 4 weeks of vacation, 10 years worth of raises, working at an established successful company just so I can be more "sensible" about my proximity to work.

Again, the ZI project is in the proposal stages. While I would love to see the plan proceed as it's being presented, it will likely change. So too, could funding. Doyle may not be ruler much longer. With a new Governor, changes in the economy, we could well see help from the feds with funding. It is an interstate, after all. More to the point, we can't turn our backs on repairs and safety just because we don't feel 5 minutes is worth the money spent. It's much more than that. Increasing efficiency reduces areas of congestion which reduces accidents. Which, contrary to what some might believe, have real costs.

People's lives are worth it.

6 comments:

fishaddict said...

My arguement to those people that say I need to move closer to my work is that they need to move closer to where the food is grown.

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