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Taxpayer group critical of certain highway projects, welcomes state's review


MADISON, WI (WSAU) -  A taxpayer watchdog group has both praise and criticism for the Governor’s budget when it comes to transportation issues. The Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group is a non-profit, non-partisan public interest advocacy organization. Spokesman Bruce Speight applauds efforts by the Transportation Projects Commission to identify unnecessary expenditures, but claims the state doesn’t go far enough.

Speight says the state’s spending is out of touch with slow population growth and transportation trends.  "It seems that our transportation priorities are completely out of whack, and we're spending hundreds of millions of dollars on highway expansions that might be completely unnecessary and wasteful spending that could be better directed towards making sure our bridges aren't collapsing and making sure our potholes are getting fixed”

He says the group has no issue with repairing roads or with justifiable new projects. He says it is the unnecessary expansion of existing roads they oppose.   Four expensive road projects WISPIRG says are wasteful include the I-90 widening project south of Madison, the Highway 15 widening project in Outagamie County, the Highway 38 project between Milwaukee and Racine, and the Tri County Freeway expansion in Calumet and Winnebago counties.   Speight says, "They were unjustified, unnecessary projects, and over the life of those projects, they could cost taxpayers as much as two billion dollars.”

The taxpayer group claims the data for several highway projects doesn’t support pouring more money into them.  "What we found was data that was ten years old, crash data that didn't make a case for highway expansion and widening and so they weren't justified.  There wasn't a case made for those projects.  Nonetheless, we're committing billions of taxpayer dollars that can be better spent on more urgent and pressing needs."

The organization would like to see the state cut funding to unnecessary expansion work and focus on maintaining the roads we have and do a better job of funding local road maintenance and local transit systems.