Archive | July 2014

Rebates for Driving Less: a Nonstructural Alternative to Expanding the Capacity of Highways

Air pollution from cars claims more than 58,000 lives in the U.S. every year, according to MIT reasearch.

By Michael T. Neuman (August, 2004)

Madison, Wisconsin is on the verge of having to make a long term decision about its future. Should it expand the capacity of its highways and freeways leading into the city to accommodate more commuter traffic into the city? Or should it say “enough already”, and demand the county and state reduce automobile commuting traffic into Madison, thereby relieving the burden of “too much” motor vehicle traffic, which most similar or larger sized cities in the U.S. already experience.

Presently, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) plans to use $210 million of public tax revenues to expand the capacity of Verona Road on Madison’s west side into a major freeway development, and to add two more lanes on to the West Beltline. The Verona Road freeway will be designed to accommodate more than twice the number of vehicles that currently use Verona Road today.

The additional two lanes on the West Beltline between Todd Drive and Mineral Point Road will channel still more traffic onto the Beltline. Where are all these tens of thousands of additional motor vehicles going once they get there? The South Beltline traffic flow in the morning is already way beyond its capacity, and Madison’s arterials which channel traffic into the downtown area and the University area (via Midvale Boulevard; University Avenue; Monroe Street; Regent Street) are all operating at congested levels now. They will all have no alternative but to become even more congested.

How will the additional motor vehicle traffic affect the quality of living in Madison? Starting with the project area, the Verona Road/Freeway and West Beltine highway expansion will surely mean more air pollution, road dust and noise pollution for areas closest to the more heavily used freeway. The high density, low-income neighborhood of Allied Drive, home to numerous minority populations, will become increasingly polluted by the increasing traffic levels on both sides of this area. Other residences, places of business and land paralleling the Verona Road Freeway, West Beltline and Madison’s west side arterials will similarly become more polluted, because of the tens of thousands more motor vehicles passing by.

Motor vehicle highway use has already increased dramatically in Dane County over the past decade. The DOT estimates that the number of motor vehicle miles traveled per year (VMT) in Dane County in 2003 was 4.8 billion, up from 3.0 billion VMT in 1990 (a 60% increase). In contrast, Dane County’s population grew by 22% during that same time period, which means Dane County not only has more drivers, but its drivers are driving significantly more miles than ever before.

Most of the growth in automotive travel in Madison has happened on the highways that surround and feed into Madison. The number of vehicles traveling on state highways that run through Madison rose from about 225,000 to about 255,000 per day between 1995 and 2000 (14% increase). Similarly, the number of vehicles using arterial streets in Madison rose between 1995 and 2000 from about 130,000 to about 145,000 per day (11% increase). Meanwhile, Madison’s resident population went from 199,518 to 208,054 residents (4.3% increase).

A study report released by the Sierra Club last month documents many of the known health hazards for people who live near heavily traveled highways. The study reports on numerous scientific studies in published medical journals that disclose substantial evidence linking heavy motor vehicle traffic with a wide range of human health ailments, especially in children and adults more sensitive to air pollutants. The evidence includes higher hospitalization rates for asthmatics living near busy roads, an increased prevalence of childhood leukemia and other forms of cancer, and a higher incidence of heart attacks and strokes in populations that live near heavily traveled roads. (See

The problem of asthma has reached almost epidemic levels in the U.S. population, growing 160 percent among pre-school children during the 15 year period from 1980 to 1994, and 75 percent in the total population. According to statistics kept by the Madison Metropolitan School District, the number of students with asthma tripled from 1987 to 2002, from about 3 percent of the population to about 9 percent of the population. See

Air pollution is especially threatening to young people because a child is more, active and with greater activity there’s more air intake and more exposure, according to John Hausbeck, environmental epidemiologist with the City of Madison’s Department of Public Health. “There is reason to believe a child would be exposed to more pollutants than adults in a similar site.”

The highest incidence of asthma cases is found among low-income and African-American toddlers, according to a recent report by the Harvard Medical School: “Inside the Greenhouse: The Impacts of CO2 and Climate Change on Public Health in the Inner City.”

The Harvard Medical School study confirms that serious public health risks are created when children and adults are exposed to even moderate levels of urban air pollution, especially when that exposure takes place during warm temperatures, a condition likely to occur with increasing frequency if the rate of global warming quickens, as predicted.

“African Americans are the most vulnerable and also suffer the most from climate change”, concludes a recently published study: “African Americans and Climate Change: An Unequal Burden” (Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Inc., July 21, 2004).

African American households emit 20 percent less carbon dioxide than white households, states the report. As consumers, African Americans use fewer products that produce carbon emissions, and they use 30 percent less gasoline than whites, per capita, according to the report. Yet because a disproportionately high percentage of African Americans live in poverty, and thus have limited housing options and lack health care or health insurance, or even air conditioning, they are more vulnerable to climate change and air pollution factors because they are less likely to have the resources necessary to mitigate problems that develop from climate change (and pollution).

If changes aren’t made in Madison to improve air quality, the city and the surrounding area risk being “non-compliant” for ozone levels, which would result in stricter limits and mandatory testing of auto emissions, plus possibly higher gasoline prices because of the additives that would be needed to cut down on the ozone in the air. Adding capacity to the Madison area highways system, which the plan for a Verona Freeway and expanded West Beltline does, would be counter-productive to achieving improved air quality in Madison and maintaining compliance with the Clean Air Act requirements.

Contrary to assertions of the road building industry and other state highway building advocates, alternatives do exist to building multi-million dollar highway capacity expansions. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) recommended the DOT consider transportation demand reduction (TDR) alternatives in its State Highway Plan 2020 back in May 1999. However, the DOT declined to investigate them, and instead recommended the construction of $20 billion highway improvement and expansion plan which has yet to be fully funded.

One of the TDR alternatives DNR recommended be further studied was a program that would offer people monetary incentives if they reduce their annual driving mileage. Instead of spending billions of public dollars (acquired through gasoline taxes and vehicle license fees) to design and construct multimillion dollar highway projects, this alternative would offer those same billions of dollars back to the public as financial incentives (monetary rewards, or “rebates”) to drive less, or not at all.

The incentives would be high enough to really encourage people not to drive so much, but instead to carpool more frequently, take transit whenever possible, and walk or bicycle (to work, shop, study, etc.).

This plan might encourage communities in outlying suburban areas of Madison to team up and charter new, less polluting buses (individually or with other communities) which would cary Madison’s commuters much more efficiently, rather than the present system of everybody driving separately. Each full bus would take 50 to 60 cars off the highway system and Madison’s streets, going both ways; this would reduce the eventual need for the costly major urban highway expansions, and reduce the urban traffic pollution and the greenhouse gas emissions as well as the need for additional maintenance on the expanded highway system.

An example of how the plan would work is provided as follows:

A person voluntarily enrolls in the program by having the odometer of his vehicle read and recorded. After a year goes by, the person has the odometer read again, and if the odometer shows less than 6,000 miles for the preceding year, the person received a $400 check. If the odometer(s) shows less than 4,000 miles, the person receives $800. If the odometer(s) shows less that 2,000 miles, he receives a check for $1,200.

The amounts paid per mileage threshold could be set higher, or lower, based on the overall transportation budget level and the desired results. The main source of funding for the program would be the state highway fund–the portion of the fund that would have otherwise gone into highway expansion projects in Dane County. Once those funds ran out, the program could be phased out completely, as most people in Dane County would not be inclined to go back to their former fuel wasting driving patterns.
The plan would encourage people to choose locations for living that are closer to where they work, shop, and play, rather than choosing their residences at considerable distance from where they normally need to be, as is presently the case for many people who commute long distances to work.

This plan was initially offered as a state plan alternative in 1999, yet there is no reason why the plan could not be used by any county or region, with approval by the state. Adoption and implementation of this plan would help keep Dane County and the south central region’s air healthy to breathe; it could significantly reduce the volume of motor vehicle traffic on incoming highways and city streets, thus improving traffic safety; and it would eliminate the need for costly and socially undesirable highway construction and expansion, such as the Verona Road Freeway and the West Beltline Expansion project in Dane County.

Originally published at:

Candidate for Wisconsin Governor Declares Opposition to Huge Open-Pit Iron-Ore Mine in Northwestern Wisconsin


The company Gogebic Taconite (GTAC), has already purchased the mineral rights for 21,000 acres of the Penokee Range in Ashland and Iron Counties, Wisconsin, and has proposed a what the Sierra Club says would become the largest open-pit iron-ore taconite mine in the world. The mine would be 22 miles long, 4 1/2 miles long, 1/2 of a mile wide and up to 1,000 feet deep.

Located in the area of the Bad River in northwestern Wisconsin, which is part of a vast, water-rich ecosystem that President John F. Kennedy described in a speech he delivered in the area in 1963 as “a central and significant portion of the freshwater assets of this country”, the proposed mine’s impacts are of great concern to the adjacent Bad River Band of Lake Superior Tribe of Chippewa Indians, who’s 125,000+ acre reservation is located on the south shore of Lake Superior, the largest fresh water lake of the world in geographic size.

Although claiming to have no interest in circumventing Wisconsin’s formerly strong environmental protection mining laws, GTAC representatives later worked behind the scenes, reportedly with Republican legislators and Governor Scott Walker, to gut Wisconsin’s mining laws. According to former Trec Bicycle executive Mary Burke, who is currently the leading Democratic candidate for Wisconsin Governor, “By letting mining companies write their own rules, Scott Walker’s policies have put Wisconsin’s public health and great outdoors at risk.” Burke’s website states further: “That’s why Mary opposes the GTAC mine – the approach the Governor, legislature and industry took didn’t balance protection of our natural resources and public health with the need for job creation. Our precious natural resources are one of Wisconsin’s greatest assets.”

Surprise! Lawmakers and Gov. Scott Walker Rid High-Capacity Well Law of Groundwater Cumulative Impacts Requirement Challenges to WDNR Permits


Starting this Monday, July 7, 2014, Wisconsin residents can no longer challenge state Department of Natural Resources permits for a high-capacity well if state officials failed to look at what the well might do to overall groundwater in the area, according to a Wisconsin Public Radio report by Chuck Quirmbach, July 1, 2014.

Wisconsin lawmakers and Gov. Scott Walker got rid of the cumulative impacts challenge when they passed the state budget a year ago. The new language covering the hi-cap wells — often used by water-intensive industries — takes effect on Tuesday.

This change comes much to the dismay of Amber Meyer Smith of the group Clean Wisconsin.

“Really, property owners are losing their ability to protect their property,” Smith said. “More and more people, especially in the central area of the state that are facing huge problems from over-pumping of groundwater due to neighboring industry and other high-capacity wells.They’re just going to lose one more tool in their toolbox to protect their own access to water, for their wells, for drinking water, for access to their favorite lakes and rivers and streams.”

DNR officials can still look at the cumulative impact on all the wells in an area, but if the agency doesn’t do so, challenges to the permit are now limited.

A spokesperson for Assembly Speaker Robin Vos didn’t respond to a request for comment, but has told other media that the new legal language protects the DNR by taking the judicial branch out of the permitting process.

Some environmentalists haven’t ruled out taking the new limits to court.

FDR’s “Four Freedoms”


The “Four Freedoms”
Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Address to Congress January 6, 1941

In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.
The first is freedom of speech and expression — everywhere in the world.

The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way — everywhere in the world.

The third is freedom from want — which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants — everywhere in the world.

The fourth is freedom from fear — which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor– anywhere in the world.

That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation….

Moon Landing, Meeting Current Needs, Ensuring Earth Remains Sustainable

Apollo 11 moon landing. Astronaut Edwin E. “Buzz” Aldrin Jr. poses for a photograph beside the U.S. flag. Photo taken by Neil Armstrong.

We put a man on the moon 45 years ago. Apollo 11 was the spaceflight that landed the first humans on the Moon on July 20, 1969. Six hours later, U.S. Astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first human being to step down onto the lunar surface, on July 21. As he stepped down from the space ship onto the surface, Armstrong declared “one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind.” Astronaut Buzz Aldrin followed and spent slightly less than six hours on the Moon’s surface. Astronaut Michael Collins piloted the command spacecraft alone in lunar orbit until Armstrong and Aldrin returned to the space ship for the trip back to Earth. They returned to Earth and landed in the Pacific Ocean on July 24. That’s the last time the United States set out to accomplish something really big in the world – something that had never been done before – and it succeeded, with flying colors!

Happy 4th of July to all!

We proclaimed ourselves to be a nation by publishing the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776.


“When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness, That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness….”


We have been citing “The Pledge of Allegiance” since it was formally adopted by our representatives in the U.S. Congress in 1942. It reads as follows: “I pledge of Allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all”.

The Pledge of Allegiance was written by Francis Julius Bellamy, who wrote it as a young man while traveling in Massachusetts. He submitted it to a patriotic circular he became aware of called “Youth’s Companion”. “The Pledge” was published in the circular on September 8, 1892. Following its publication, Bellamy described his reasons for writing it and for its “careful wording”:

“It began as an intensive communing with salient points of our national history, from the Declaration of Independence; with the makings of the Constitution; with the meaning of the Civil War; with the aspiration of the people…”. “The true reason for reciting allegiance to the Flag is … to make it clear that we are “One Nation” – the One Nation which the Civil War was fought to prove. To make that One Nation idea clear, we must specify that it is indivisible, as Webster and Lincoln used to repeat in their great speeches.”

Francis Julius Bellamy was born on May 18, 1855 in Mount Morris, NY. He became a First Baptist Church minister and married Harriet Benton in Newark, NY in 1881, raised two sons, and spent most of the last years of his life living and working in Tampa, FL where he died on August 28, 1931 at the age of 76.

Now, in 2014, few U.S. citizens and others living in the U.S. and abroad seem satisfied with where the United States of America stands in the world on many issues of concern. Wars are still raging on, with or without U.S. involvement it seems everywhere, and U.S. soldiers, foreign civilians, foreign soldiers, and even young children are dying, or being maimed, needlessly.

Billions of people in the world live in poverty, including millions of U.S. citizens and non U.S. citizen and young children living in the U.S.. Yet we hear in the media that there are more millionaires now in the United States than ever before, and that income inequality in the U.S. has reached an all-time high, especially adversely affecting African-American and Latino youth populations in the U.S. the most. Yet it seems clear the majority of our representatives in the U.S. Congress, and the men and women serving in our state Legislature, and Governor Scott Walker, must be content with the deplorable situation this country finds itself in in spite of the above ideals embodied in our country’s broad declarations.

And while this injustice continues to take place in America and in Wisconsin, [“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”, said Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”, dated 16 April 1963], human-caused global warming of our planet’s atmosphere and oceans and the resulting climate catastrophes, [California’s long-standing drought and high wildfire numbers; Hurricane Katrina devastation; Midwest flooding; Hurricane Sandy; Supertyphoon Haiyan …] which many credible scientists have said are linked to a warming climate and oceans, are evidence enough that we ought as society begin to act in major ways to begin significantly reducing our collective greenhouse gas emissions to the urgent degree that what’s happening to our planet now demands. Because the crisis that is emerging worldwide is the result of decades and even centuries of a collectively massive amount of fossil fuels being burned, and therefore equally massive volumes of greenhouse gases being released to the atmosphere from the combustion – combustion of oil, natural gas, diesel fuel, and coal in power plants, jet engines, automobiles, trucks, ships, motorized recreational and work-related equipment, generators, food processing facilities, and other transportation and recreational devises, mostly by those who can afford it, as well as increases in emissions of other potent greenhouse gases (eg. methane releases from natural gas pipes and oil drilling and fracking activities, where they are allowed), and the positive feedback releases resulting from a warming planet even more (thawing rotting permafrost region from warming temperature releases powerful greenhouse gas methane in larger and larger quantities, resulting in even more warming, even more thawing and rotting permafrost, and so on…; it is essential that we act now before it’s too late.

This problem should not be viewed as insolvable. However, the likely impacts should be planned for and ample adaptation measures taken by all. In doing this, we can be guided by the words of President John F. Kennedy spoken on September 12, 1962 before a crowd of 35,000 people in the football stadium at Rice University in Houston, Texas:

“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.”


As Albert Einstein said: “The significant problems we face today cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.” Click on “About this Blog” to read about a socially just approach aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions while at the same time reducing economic inequality and poverty for people and families in the U.S. who demonstrate they burn significantly fewer fossil fuels over the course of a year than the average American.

This type of program (Conserve, NOW!) is doable and could be funded from reductions in capacity expansion of highways bridges, airports, power plants and major transmission lines, since the need (economic demand) for these costly and environmentally damaging tax-payer financed boondoggle projects would be reduced as a result of decreased use of fossil fuel derived energy by the public in driving cars, jet travel, home heating, electricity use, etc.. If need be, a carbon tax could also be applied to all fossil fuel combustion, no matter the use, to generate additional revenues for offering financial incentives to the everyone in the U.S. to reduce activities they engage in that require fuel burning.

In an April 23, 2013 interview with contributor Elizabeth Howell, Astronaut Eugene Cernan, who became the last man to walk on the Moon (in December 1972), shared his thoughts on how the Apollo missions achieved such grand success: “When Kennedy challenged us to go to the moon we didn’t know beans about it. “I was just a young lieutenant flying out in the West Pacific off aircraft carriers, and at that time I believed – and I think most other people did too – that they were asking us to do something that was impossible. And then all of a sudden we got involved – all of us. And the rest is history. Don’t tell me I can’t do it: I think that’s the America I grew up in.”

As Cernan prepared to climb up the lunar ladder for the last time on the Apollo 17 mission, the last maned spaceflight mission to the Moon, he paused and spoke these words:

“As I take man’s last step from the surface, back home for some time to come – but we believe not too long into the future – I’d like to just (say) what I believe history will record. That America’s challenge of today has forged man’s destiny of tomorrow. And, as we leave the Moon at Taurus–Littrow, we leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return, with peace and hope for all mankind. Godspeed the crew of Apollo 17.”

He and his crewmates returned to Earth on Dec. 19, 1972.

The cost of not proceeding with any major Congressionally approved program to massively conserve on burning fossil fuels, NOW, will surely ultimately be astronomical. The costs will not only skyrocket, ending up in the trillions of dollars, and but the number of human and other animal lives lost will likely end up in the billions, all because we already have and we are continuing to burn unsafe quantity levels of fossil fuels, which is now scientifically linked to rising atmospheric greenhouse gas accumulations, rising surface and ocean temperatures, worldwide, and which is also scientifically linked to ultra-extreme weather climate disasters, such as the one presently being experienced at Okinawa, Japan. What more will it take for our government officials in the U.S. to begin taking appropriate scale actions?