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The Scandalously High Cost of Shortchanging Transit

9:47 AM PDT on October 19, 2011

You will remember that Wisconsin was the state that, according to Gov. Scott Walker, couldn’t afford to operate an inter-city rail system, even with an $800 million federal start-up grant.

But it turns out that having a transportation system based entirely on automobile travel isn’t exactly cheap. Now, instead of reaping savings, Wisconsin is drowning in highway bills.

According to James Rowen at Network blog The Political Environment, car congestion along the corridor that would have been served by the federal rail grant is prompting a $2 billion expansion:

An ideologically-motivated Republican state legislature killed planning for a commuter rail line to connect Milwaukee, Racine and Kenosha, thus guaranteeing congestion on the I-94 corridor south to the Illinois line that is under $1.9 billion worth of reconstruction and widening for several more years.

Meanwhile, Southeast Wisconsin barely averted disaster for its transit system recently thanks to a one-time federal stopgap of a few million dollars.

On the other hand, highway spending is moving ahead full bore, with a menu that includes a $1.7 billion interchange rebuild:

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