Wisconsin Highway Bonanza: Scott Walker Unfazed by Lack of Funds

Early last year we learned just how dire the financial situation was in Wisconsin. Scott Walker explained how his state couldn’t afford to run more trains if the federal government paid for passenger rail upgrades. Wisconsin, he said, couldn’t afford to collectively bargain with its employees.

Wisconsin's $1.7 billion "Zoo Interchange," one of the many reasons the state's highway fund is running dry. Photo: ##http://www.forconstructionpros.com/blog/10785423/major-road-rehab-project-in-milwaukee-will-utilize-concrete## Forconstructionpros.com##

But as we’ve reported extensively, Scott Walker is a big spender when to comes to highways — really big. So intent is he on building some $6.2 billion in freeways planned for southeast Wisconsin — including a $1.7 billion interchange just outside Milwaukee — that he appears to be undeterred by the fact that Wisconsin doesn’t have anywhere near the money to do it.

James Rowen at Network blog The Political Environment explains how it could all turn into massive general fund subsidies for highways:

Scott Walker … opined on Monday in Wisconsin that he wants to keep all his major highway expansion projects on track — though the state transportation fund is over-committed and short of money — but doesn’t want to raise the gas tax or create toll lanes to meet the shortfall.

He’s sending signals to his transportation financing task force to find alternatives — other than rethinking the expansions altogether — like diverting auto sales or general purpose income taxes to subsidize road-building, or setting up a new, per-miles-driven fee, or an increase in vehicle registration or licensing fees.

So much for fiscal restraint, eh? The really bad news is, Walker already stripped Wisconsin’s dedicated funding for transit. Now he seems to be opening the door to a situation where both his fantasy highway wish list and the state’s woefully underfunded transit systems would compete for the same pot of money. Guess who would win?

Elsewhere on the Network today: The Architect’s Newspaper reports there are some exciting changes coming for San Diego’s waterfront. Rails to Trails shares the story of a New York State school that found a creative way to get more kids walking and biking — despite its car-centric surroundings. And Green City Blue Lake writes that it might be time to “ditch the cynicism” about northeast Ohio’s regional planning process.

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