Skip to content

Streetsblog.net
View Comments

How Wisconsin DOT Distorts the Numbers to Sell Highway Projects

Total miles driven has been declining in Wisconsin but the state's still adding highway lanes at a furious, go-for-broke pace. Image: Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group

Driving has been declining in Wisconsin but the state is still adding highway lanes at a furious, go-for-broke pace. Image: Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group

The Interstate 94 expansion in Wisconsin is a textbook example of how state DOTs manufacture the case for billion-dollar highway projects.

Instead of simply fixing up the road, Wisconsin DOT is moving ahead with an $850 million repair and widening of Interstate 94 through Milwaukee and some of its inner-ring suburbs. WisDOT says the widening is needed because it expects traffic to increase 24 percent by 2030. But a quick look at recent traffic data shows driving on the road has actually declined over the last few years.

WisDOT also frames the highway widening as a safety improvement, even though for $850 million you could redesign hundreds of miles of surface streets and do a lot more for safety. But even when you limit the focus to I-94, WisDOT’s data doesn’t hold up, writes Gretchen Schuldt at Network blog Milwaukee Rising:

In the Environmental Impact Statement for the project, WisDOT says that “Crash rates in the I?94 East?West Corridor are mostly at least 2 to 3 times higher than the statewide average for similar roadways, and several sections are more than 4 times higher than the statewide average.”

The various-size road pieces that WisDOT includes in the average are all considered “large urban freeways,” even when they are not. The list includes, for example, a stretch of Highway 43 in Rock County that carries an average of 1,012 cars per day, or a whopping 0.67% of the average traffic count in the I-94 project area.

Schuldt reviewed the data for more than 1,600 “large urban freeway” sections WisDOT used as the basis for comparisons to I-94. She found that on average, they carry only 34 percent as much traffic as the project area, making the whole safety argument suspect.

According to James Rowen at The Politicial Environment, even some conservative groups are calling for Wisconsin to “rein in” wasteful spending by killing highway projects.

Elsewhere on the Network today: The Dallas Morning News’ Transportation Blog reports that Dallas is testing out its new streetcar line to Oak Cliff, set to open in weeks. Systemic Failure notes that Caltrans won a court battle to continue widening famously scenic Highway 1 along the California coast. And Better Cities & Towns! explores the “big asphalt” lobby and how it works.

1 Comment

Today’s Headlines

  • Mayors Team Up to Press Congress for Action on Transpo Bill (Mass Live)
  • Uncertainty on Bill Already Threatening Projects (The Hill)
  • Illinois Lawmakers Want Full Funding for Rail, Transit (Chicago Sun-Times)
  • GGW: Can the DC Metro System Restore the Public’s Trust?
  • Gov Malloy’s TOD Bill in Connecticut Will Get Retooled (WNPR)
  • In Philly, Transpo Issues Play Undeniable Role in Mayor’s Race (Next City)
  • First of Its Kind Streetcar Shipped to Dallas (Railway Age)
  • The “Death of Sprawl” Story is More Nuanced Than Meets the Eye (NOLA.com)
  • Anchorage Bike Funding Went to Other Projects (Alaska Public Radio)
19 Comments

Parking Madness 2015: Fort Worth vs. Boise

There’s just one spot remaining in the Elite Eight of this year’s Parking Madness bracket. And it’s either going to Fort Worth or Boise. Without further ado, here are the final parking craters in the 2015 tournament.

Fort Worth

forth_worth_birdseye

This eyesore was submitted by an anonymous commenter, who wrote:

Read more…

5 Comments

Movement in Congress to Let Cities and Towns Access Federal Transpo Funds

A state-level funding grant program in Pennsylvania is helping fund this campus master plan for Drexel University in Philadelphia. Image: Transportation for America

A grant program in Pennsylvania is helping fund the campus master plan for Drexel University in Philadelphia. Image: Transportation for America

Finally, proof that Congress is capable of crafting smart transportation legislation and not just zany ways to avoid raising the gas tax.

A bipartisan coalition of 10 lawmakers is supporting the Innovation in Surface Transportation Act, which would help cities, counties, and other local governments directly access federal funding for transportation projects, according to Transportation for America.

The proposal, first floated last year, would let local governments compete for at least $5 billion of the $50 billion or so in federal transportation funds allocated to states each year.

Under the bill, local agencies in each state would apply for grants, with a statewide committee selecting winners. The committees could include, for example, local chambers of commerce, active transportation advocates, transit agencies, air quality boards, ports, and others.

The bill would make better use of federal transportation dollars for two main reasons:

Read more…

Streetsblog.net
View Comments

To Speed Service, Seattle Looks to Separate Streetcars From Auto Traffic

Seattle's South Lake Union streetcar might get a dedicated lane. Photo: Matt Johnson via Flickr

Seattle’s South Lake Union streetcar might get a dedicated lane. Photo: Matt Johnson via Flickr

As streetcars make a comeback in cities across America, they are under scrutiny from transit advocates who complain about service quality.

Atlanta’s new streetcar has produced disappointing ridership numbers, with sources reporting it’s not much faster than walking. And Yonah Freemark at the Transport Politic reports that after a fairly strong start, Seattle’s South Lake Union streetcar has seen ridership sputter, with a 7 percent decline in the last year.

But the good news is Seattle has zeroed in on a key issue with the line. Freemark reports:

The problem may have something to do with the way the streetcar runs: In the street, sharing lanes with cars. The results have been slow vehicles — the line’s scheduled service averages less than eight miles per hour — often held back by traffic and a lack of reliability. This can produce horror stories of streetcars getting stuck for half an hour or more behind other vehicles and, combined with infrequent service, it certainly reinforces the sense that streetcars are too slow and unreliable to provide any serious transportation benefit.

This is a problem shared by every existing and planned modern streetcar line in the country, suggesting that the streetcar designed to run in the street with cars may, over the long term, simply fail to attract riders who grow increasingly frustrated with the quality of service provided.

Seattle may offer a solution, however. CityLab‘s Nate Berg reported last year that the city is planning a new streetcar line — the 1.1-mile Center City Connector that in 2018 would run along dedicated downtown lanes as it links the South Lake Union line with another service, the 2.5-mile First Hill line, which is currently under construction. That’s great news, but even more interesting is the fact that the city is considering giving dedicated lanes to the existing South Lake Union line.

Read more…

No Comments

Today’s Headlines

  • Hartford BRT Debuts in Connecticut (Hartford Courant)
  • Foxx, Shuster Work Together on Transpo Funding Quagmire (The Hill)
  • DC Mayor Sticks With Streetcar, But There’s a Lot of Work Ahead (WaPo)
  • St. Paul Lays Out Ambitious Plans for Biking (MPR News)
  • Nashville’s Mayoral Hopefuls Take on Transit After Death of BRT (Tennessean)
  • Boston’s Bike Director Departs for Seattle (Boston Globe)
  • Virginia Makes Transpo Spending More Practical, Less Political (GGW)
  • Bill From Kentucky Rep Would Defund Transit, Bike Lanes, Sidewalks (WCPO)
  • Pinellas County, Florida, Misses Out on Bus Funding (Tampa Bay Times)
15 Comments

Parking Madness 2015: Asheville vs. Syracuse

Only two spots remain in the Elite Eight of Streetsblog’s Parking Madness bracket. Yesterday, the parking fields by GM headquarters along the Detroit waterfront prevailed over the parking crater around the BART station in Bay Area suburb Walnut Creek.

Today, Asheville, North Carolina, faces Rust Belt stalwart Syracuse.

Asheville

original-3

This entry comes to us from the fine folks at Kostelec Planning, who identify it as “downtown Asheville’s ‘South Slope’ area”:

Read more…

23 Comments

The American Highway Safety Establishment Warms Up Some Leftovers

TZD_chart

Thinking of all traffic deaths as “highway fatalities” and measuring safety in terms of how much we drive is part of the problem. Graph: Toward Zero Deaths [PDF]

A group of heavy hitters in the road building and traffic safety establishment recently came out with a plan called “Toward Zero Deaths” [PDF], presented as an ambitious strategy to cut traffic fatalities in America. But don’t get too excited by the branding — the ideas inside don’t present much of a challenge to practices that have made the U.S. a shameful laggard on traffic safety compared to other affluent nations.

The document was produced by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (the body represents state DOTs), in coordination with the Federal Highway Administration and a number of safety and law enforcement groups. Take a look at what they’re proposing and it’s clear the mentality of these institutions hasn’t evolved much in the past 40 years, even as America falls farther behind countries with far safer streets.

Is it still 1975?

The report starts off stale and doesn’t get any fresher. The three main recommendations are the same ones the U.S. transportation establishment has focused on for decades:

  1. Increasing seat belt use and reducing drunk driving
  2. Improving the driving practices of young people and old people
  3. Regulating vehicle safety more strictly

All fine ideas that make a difference, but this formula leaves out many other strategies adopted by countries like Germany, Japan, and the UK — countries where the per capita traffic fatality rate is less than half the rate in America.

Read more…

Streetsblog.net
View Comments

NJ Police Chief Responds to Pedestrian Death: “Think About the Driver”

Route 130 has been named the most dangerous road in New Jersey five times in a row. Photo: Delran Township

Route 130 consistently ranks as the most dangerous road in New Jersey. Photo: Delran Township

After Richard Price, 56, was struck and killed by a driver on Route 130 in New Jersey’s Burlington County, the local police chief took to the pages of the local paper to scold pedestrians and implore people to “think about the driver… and about the life trauma they now have to endure.” The full piece, titled “If you must cross Route 130, use common sense,” is unfortunately behind a paywall.

When people in power blame victims like that, it helps explain why Route 130 got to be the deadliest road in New Jersey. Matthew Norris at the Tri-State Transportation Campaign’s Mobilizing the Region blog explains:

Two pedestrians have been struck — one fatally — by cars while walking on Route 130 in Burlington County just since the March 5 release of Tri-State’s annual Most Dangerous Roads for Walking report, which named Route 130 the most dangerous road in New Jersey for the fifth year in a row. Now more than ever, it is clear that Route 130 must be transformed to allow all road users to travel without putting their lives at risk — and it needs to happen as soon as possible.

Both sides of Route 130 are home to many places of work, restaurants, shops and transit stops. But like many of the most dangerous roads for pedestrians in the region, Route 130 is a multi-lane arterial road with as many as six lanes of fast-moving traffic, few sidewalks, and even fewer crosswalks. Pedestrians often have to walk more than a half-mile out of their way just to reach a crosswalk.

While the New Jersey Department of Transportation has added new sidewalks and mid-block crossings in a few of locations along the corridor, more life-saving measures like continuous sidewalks, additional crosswalks and pedestrian refuge islands must be added. These necessary short-term improvements could then be followed by a full-scale overhaul which could transform the roadway from a high-speed thoroughfare into an attractive multi-modal boulevard. These changes would do more than help to save lives — they could also help spur the development of walkable, mixed-use development on adjacent abandoned or underutilized land.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Greater Greater Washington reports that Purple Line supporters are hard at work trying to reduce the costs of that project and gain approval from Governor Larry Hogan. 1000 Friends of Wisconsin notes that while the state is splurging on highway expansions, one in three of the state’s local roads are in need of immediate repair. And Better Cities & Towns! shares a new study pegging the annual cost of sprawl to America at about $1 trillion.

3 Comments

Today’s Headlines

  • How Commute Times Affect Public Health (Pacific Standard)
  • Study Finds Sprawl Costs U.S. Economy $1 Trillion Per Year (Planetizen)
  • Working Group: Lack of Transpo Options Hurts Life Prospects in Ferguson (KTRS)
  • NJ Police Chief Scolds Pedestrians After Deaths on Busy Road (Burlington County Times)
  • Australian Transport Officials Release “Level of Service” Guide for All Modes (Austroads)
  • Why Cities Around the World Are Ditching Traffic Lights (Fast Company)
  • Virginia Beach Seeking $155 Million From State for Light Rail from Norfolk (Hampton Roads)
  • Motorists Driving Right Into Cincinnati’s New Protected Bike Lane (Business Journal)