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Cars and streetcars together.
Cars and streetcars together.

Rise in transit tides lifts all boats

Everyone wants to be able to get around a city easily.  It’s simple in stuff.  Cities need bike lanes, roads, side walks, taxis, rail, trolleys, buses and other forms of transit to move people from here to there.  

I love my car.  I love driving. And, as you’ll note in my record, I like driving fast.  I blame my Dad for this. Regardless of my love for automobiles, I embrace and support increased mass transit opportunity for our state.

Simply put, once we park we need easier and more efficient ways to get around.  Especially in greater Downtown.  Debate on transportation shouldn’t be a cars vs. everything else battle.  

So, let’s consider this.  We want to spend $1.7 billion on a taxpayer funded rebuild and expansion of the Zoo Interchange.  $1.7 billion.  It’s crazy.  But, no one is batting an eye.

Yes, the Zoo Interchange needs work.  Trucks and cars have beat it down over the years.  

A recent ruling, though, by federal Judge Lynn Adelman finding that the state Department of Transportation’s Environmental Impact Statement supporting the Zoo Interchange is deficient and violates federal law may just send a strong message that highway building and road expansions in southeastern Wisconsin at the expense of public transit and other projects should at least be better analyzed.  $1.7 billion.  Wow. That could build a needed Downtown arena, fund several schools, pay for the Streetcar and repair roads.

Ald. Robert J. Bauman said yesterday that Judge Adelman’s decision "is a strong endorsement that southeastern Wisconsin’s transportation needs must be reflected in balanced investments in local roads, freeways and transit which serve the economic and social needs of all citizens and all areas of the region."

Bauman is recommending the DOT immediately consider a new alternative. That alternative would spend $370 million to reconstruct I-94 from 25th St. to 70th St. and allocate the savings between this option and the expansion option – as much as $830 million – to three other infrastructure investments.

Specifically, he says the state should spend on third of the savings on repairing and reconstructing local roads and streets which, especially in Milwaukee, are in badly deteriorated condition; spend one third on repairing other state highways and bridges; and spend one third to expand the Milwaukee Streetcar to UW-Milwaukee on the East Side, Miller Park on the West Side, the 30th Street Corridor on the North Side, and to Walker’s Point on the South Side.

It’s all about balance, and doesn’t a balanced approach to investing in transportation infrastructure make sense?

Yesterday, U.S. Pirg, a nonprofit advocacy organization released a report noting 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.

There are several reasons for this, but sticking with a "that’s the way we’ve always done it" funding approach isn’t the best way to move forward.

Milwaukee’s moving forward with a streetcar, the trolley is back this summer and a few other cool shuttle options are coming soon, too.  Options are good.  Cars are great.  They both work well together.  Let’s make it so here in Wisconsin. 

As I’ve written before, transportation isn't a Republican or Democratic issue; it's a simple, quality-of-life improvement. It's about innovation and improvements in our entire community.

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