Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Which capital projects would you vote for/against?

Toady's Cap Times had a letter suggesting that Madison voters be allowed to vote for/against any capital project in excess or $3-4 million. That would be an interesting idea. I wonder which roads people would want to fund?

Back when the city was still considering the idea of a streetcar, opponents suggested that a transportation project of that size be put to the voters. Right now I don't remember what the estimated price tag was, but it was well below many of our road projects.

Alder Ken Golden, the major transportation geek before I got elected - and then we tag-teamed the transportation issues - opined that if people wanted to vote on the streetcar, then they should vote on any transportation project over a certain level. That might spark some interesting discussions about our transportation funding.

One of the complaints from the naysayer about the streetcar, and now the high speed rail, or commuter rail, or even the bus system, was that, "I'll never use it, so what should I pay for it?" Hmmm, interesting line of thinking. There are many things in the city that I don't use, or use very rarely, and yet I pay for them, whether I think they are a good idea or not. Really big roads on the edge of town, for one.

The city pours tens of millions of dollars into road projects to try to relieve congestion, or to accommodate yet another subdivision, office park, or big box store. Sometimes they build roads to accommodate traffic from or to developments that are not even in the City of Madison. Most of these are paid for with your property taxes, as few local road projects receive state or federal funding. Even the projects that do receive federal funds, the City has to pony up 50% of the cost.

Want to see what the city has planned for the next five years? May 4 there will be a presentation to the Common Council about the Transportation Improvement Plan,(TIP), the planned transportation funding for the next five years. This is also the list the city works off when they request federal funds (only 50%, remember?) for the larger projects.

Take a look at the list, see what you think is a good use of your taxes, and what is just accommodating wasteful land use and increased oil use.

Here is the public notice:

The Common Council included language in a 2008 budget amendment requiring that a presentation on the City’s Transportation Improvement Plan be made to the Common Councilprior to submission of the plan to the Metropolitan Planning Organization (now the Madison Area Transportation Planning Board).
A Council presentation by City Engineering staff on the 2011-2016 Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP) that will be presented to the Madison Area Transportation Planning Board has been scheduled for:
Tuesday, May 4, 2010, 5:00 p.m., Room 201, City-County Building

Feel free to contact Rob Phillips, City Engineer at 266-4090 or if you have any questions.  Thank you. 
I don't have a link to the 2011-2015 TIP, but you can take a look at the 2010 Adopted Capital Budget - Engineering, Major Streets, to get an idea what is coming down the line.

Keep these numbers in mind when someone complains about the cost to run the buses, build a multi-use path, or build a commuter rail line. And keep in mind as well, that every $1 million borrowed will be approximately $104,000 of property taxes every year for the next 10 years to pay off that debt.

And then think about the other roads, all over Dane County, Wisconsin, or across the US. Is this the best way to move people and goods? I don't think so, and we are just perpetuating a broken model, especially for personal travel within the city.

Which roads would you vote to fund each year?