From today's Cap Times comes a question I've asked quite a bit: "Where are the fiscal conservatives - the ones screaming about the cost of the Madison-Milwaukee rail project - when it comes to road costs?"
Chris Murphy did the research on numbers that I've been meaning to do.
But I am always struck by the opposition to rail based on its price tag when we spend far, far more on roads each year. According to state Department of Transportation figures (see table TR1 on page Roman numeral x), Wisconsin spent more than $1.1 billion last year just on highway rehabilitation and maintenance. Then there was another $323 million on new highway construction and major upgrades and more than $293 million on debt service, much of it likely for roads. All of those figures are separate, by the way, from aids given to municipalities to help pay for their roads and bridges; that's another $557 million and that doesn't count what counties, cities, villages and towns spend themselves on those projects.So... let's start a real conversation about the cost of different types of transportation. And don't give me the, "Most people drive, so we should be spending money on roads." B.S. When people have no other choices but to drive, of course they are going to chose that option. If you want to compare how many people use a certain mode, you have to compare driving vs. train in places where their time, cost, and convenience are similar. Perhaps looking at Metra in the Chicago area vs. how many people drive the same route. Or the NE corridor on Amtrak.
When the Madison-Milwaukee line gets up and running - and it will - I think many people will be amazed how many people chose that option over the I-94 drive.