Growing Worries Over Global Climate Change Threaten Major Highway Expansions
Last week,the Wisconsin Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee approved borrowing an additional $350 million to be paid later to put five major highway capacity expansion projects back on the schedule for road and bridge construction. The 5 major projects in Wisconsin include the following:
* the roadwork along Madison’s Beltline, Highway 12-18, at the Verona Road interchange;
* I-39/90 from the Illinois state line to Madison;
* Highway 10/441 in the Fox Valley;
* Highway 23 between Fond du Lac and Plymouth;
* Highway 15 near New London in Outagamie County.
Project completion dates for those project have been put off by two years, due to the lack of funds in the current Wisconsin state budget. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) has already contracted for the start of work on these projects but because of the funding shortfall, the completion date for the projects was pushed later into the future.
The five major highway capacity projects are located throughout Wisconsin and their completion dates will be delayed pending full approval by the Wisconsin Legislature’s of the JFC’s ruling in a revised state budget signed by Governor Scott Walker. The bonding approval means the five projects will face delays of one year instead of two.
Meanwhile, the state of North Carolina and the Federal Highway Administration are reconsidering the widening an interstate highway through west Asheville to eight lanes. Highway builders want to complete the “missing link” of Interstate 26 running from Tennessee to Charleston. That missing link is actually already an interstate: I-240, built right though some of Asheville’s urban neighborhoods during the urban renewal era. The highway was a major dividing line between some of the black neighborhoods in west Asheville and some more affluent white neighborhoods.
Problem is, FHWA refuses to just rename it I-26 because the highway doesn’t meet some of the modern interstate standards. The DOT is exploring its options for a $600 million widening and “upgrade.”
The state recently released its draft environmental impact statement. The document seems to favor a design that would widen the highway from four lanes to eight — a plan many local residents say is unnecessary and potentially damaging. Last year, the U.S. Public Interest Research group named the project one of its top “highway boondoggles.”
Groups such as “Mountain True”, the Asheville Design Center and a number of community groups had been pushing for a more city-friendly approach. They wanted a design that would preserve urban land for development, minimize air pollution, and provide additional multi-modal connections for neighborhood residents.
“I keep seeing this stuff from U.S. DOT about ‘beyond traffic’ and moving beyond the old paradigm but we’re sort of having the old paradigm forced on us in Asheville”, said Don Kostelec, a local advocate and independent planner skeptical of the project.
Alternative to Verona Road/Beltline Highway Expansion