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The Implications of Southeast Wisconsin's $7 Billion in Freeway Projects

Some people call it a road-building program. Others call it "an all out war on urbanism."
July 22, 2015, 2pm PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Michael Grunwald has produced a large, magazine-style feature for Politico's "The Agenda" series. The feature examines the city of Milwaukee's "addiction to megahighways" as an examples of a proclivity found all over the country.

Grunwald begins by describing the Marquette Interchange, completed in 2008, as the "largest and most complex road project in Wisconsin's history."

"Seven years later, though, the Marquette is no longer an outlier. The state is already building or planning three larger freeway projects in the Milwaukee area alone; the expansion and reconstruction of the nearby Zoo Interchange will cost more than twice as much as the Marquette. It’s all part of a $7 billion effort to widen and modernize the interstates around the city, an effort so massive it has its own line item in the state budget, 'Southeast Wisconsin Freeway Megaprojects.'"

The state's desire to build so many highways, at such extravagant cost, has informed some of Governor (also presidential candidate) Scott Walker's most heated political controversies, including his own party rejecting his road-building program, thus leaving the state budget in limbo, and a federal court ruling that the Wisconsin DOT used faulty projections to justify a highway widening project.

The article relates the example of Milwaukee and Wisconsin to a larger debate—fueled by the ongoing struggles of Congress to produce a long-term transportation-funding bill—about how much should be allocated for maintenance of existing infrastructure versus new construction.

Grunwald also calls on John Norquist, former mayor of Milwaukee and former president of the Congress for New urbanism, who is quoted in the article speaking bluntly about the effects of the Wisconsin road-building program. "It’s an all-out war on urbanism," says Norquist.

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Published on Wednesday, July 22, 2015 in Politico
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