A new report from the Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group Foundation (WISPIRG), Highway Boom, Budget Bust, uses TSTC’s Tracking State Transportation Dollars analysis to show that Wisconsin’s highway expansion plans are out-of-line with the needs of Wisconsinites.
TSTC’s Wisconsin analysis found that Badger State officials planned to spend 30 percent of its State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) on projects that expanded road capacity solely, higher than the national average of 22.5 percent of the STIP for road and bridge capacity expansion projects combined. The WISPIRG report juxtaposes the state’s spending on road expansions with the state’s projected population growth, the state’s road and bridge maintenance needs, and the declining vehicle miles traveled by Wisconsinites. The report notes that:
- Wisconsin’s population is projected to increase 14.7 percent from 2000-2030, which is “half the national average;”
- 43 percent of Wisconsin’s roads were rated as being in “less than good” condition in 2008;
- The average Wisconsin driver drove 500 fewer miles in 2010 than in 2004, and
- Across the nation, young people are increasingly choosing transit over driving.
With these considerations in mind, the report finds that “Wisconsin’s STIP priorities are misplaced.”
To remedy this, WISPIRG offers the following recommendations:
- Require that proposals for new roads and highway expansions include recent population growth and transportation trend data, and factor it into their justification.
- Reduce funding for new capacity and reprioritize funding for repair and maintenance and modes which are seeing increased use and demand.
- Increase funding for the Local Road Improvement Program (LRIP) and for General Transportation Aids (GTAs).
- Increase funding for transit, bike and pedestrian infrastructure.
- Require that all projects be evaluated for their impact on transportation-induced problems.
While these recommendations certainly appear to make good sense for Wisconsin, they also make a lot of sense for states across the nation.