Monday, November 22, 2010

Wisconsinites don’t want to pay anything for transportation, neither rail nor roads

While an article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel indicates that Wisconsinites oppose rail, I think the results merit a little further reflection.

Although this poll shows a marginal opposition to the Madison-Milwaukee extension of the Hiawatha
service, it also shows opposition to toll roads. Yet I am quite certain that there would be a howl of
opposition if the gas tax or registration fee was raised.

So, given that the Wisconsin Transportation Fund, not to mention the federal Highway Trust Fund, will
soon not be able to pay for the road expansions and reconstructions that taxpayers demand, where will
that money comes from?

And shouldn't we be planning for alternatives to all those roads, maybe something that would carry more people, faster, and requires less of our precious farmland? Something that is less money to maintain, and would also be more environmentally friendly?

Nah. That's too close to socialism.

The article reveals that Wisconsinites feel transportation is an area where spending can be cut. Really?
Because all I ever hear from people is the need to either expand roads that are congested for a couple
hours per day, or complaints about the need to fix the roads that already exist.

What many people do not realize is how expensive it is to maintain, let alone build roads.

And lest anyone get the idea that all that money comes from gas taxes and registration fees – so
called “user fees” - 40% of road costs are borne by all taxpayers, whether they drive or nor, own a car or
not, or how many miles they drive. That 40% comes not from gas taxes and registration fees, but from
state sales and income taxes, and mostly from local property taxes. When we look at local roads, where
most driving is done, almost 100% comes from property taxes, with a slim amount coming from state
reimbursement of some maintenance costs on local roads.

People think the trains will be too expensive to maintain? It’s going to be considerably more expensive
to maintain the additional lanes of interstate, state highways, and local roads that will be needed if we
don’t give people an alternative to driving. This resistance to the train is the epitome of cutting off ones
nose to spite the face.

So whether you are a tree-hugger that wants to use less oil and create less pollution, or a pissed off taxpayer that sees the huge costs of our continued reliance on roads alone, or maybe you are someone that knows not everybody can drive, should drive, or wants to drive, if you want an alternative for the future, speak up!

Tell our Governor-elect that you want to have the train. You can call his transition office at 608-261-9200. You can also email him or even write a letter, if you want to give him more detail than a voice mail will allow. Hey he's got a link on that page for "Citizen Suggestions." That might be a good place to leave your thoughts.

You can also tell your federal and state elected officials that we want and need alternatives to driving everywhere. They are the ones holding the purse strings. And finally, it wouldn't hurt to tell US DOT Secretary Ray LaHood that not everyone in Wisconsin is against the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative. Email, phone numbers, and snail mail contacts can be found here. Remember that hard copy letters take forever to be delivered in Washington, DC. Faxes and emails might work better for federal offices.

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