A Legal Victory Against Road Expansion in Wisconsin

We got an e-mail yesterday from network member James Rowen, who writes the Political Environment blog in Milwaukee. Rowen wanted to be sure we hadn’t missed his recent posts on last week’s ruling by U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman (we had — so thanks for the heads-up).

Adelman’s ruling could delay or halt the ongoing widening of Wisconsin’s Highway 164, a project that’s been carried out by state and federal transportation agencies over the last few years over much community protest. The judge found that the expansion had not been properly justified by the environmental impact study conducted in 2001. (Read more about the case here and here; download the full ruling here).

The legal challenge to the widening was brought by the Highway J Citizens Group, which Rowen describes as "homeowners, farmers, and
everyday rural and suburban folk." He writes:

Picture_1.jpgIt says a lot about the way that federal and state governments have
been forcing highway expansion onto the land and the general public
that citizens have had to resort to litigation to get officials to
follow the law, and to ensure an open process, when public funds,
public hearings, public projects and public property are all in play.…

[I]t shouldn’t have come to this: governors of both parties in Wisconsin have given their WisDOT administrators carte blanche
to tear up the land, pave the tax base, spend billions, overbuild
highways, bypasses and freeways, and enrich contractors, with little
regard to the interests of everyday taxpayers and the landscape.

So is there any chance that this sorry state of affairs is going to change? A post by Gary Toth at Making Places, the Project for Public Spaces blog, offers some hope.

Toth writes:

On Thursday, September 24, ContextSensitiveSolutions.org, an FHWA website managed by Project for Public Spaces, hosted an online Forum on Livability for the US Department of Transportation (USDOT). In
this forum, USDOT detailed several new programs related to a new
Partnership for Sustainable Communities among USDOT, the US
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the US Department of Housing
and Urban Development (HUD) that promise to reshape development
patterns around creating stronger community centers, more compact,
mixed-use and walkable environments, and enhanced transportation
options. At the same time, these programs would focus development in existing developed areas and protect farmland and open space.

We hope that we will look back on this initiative
as a watershed moment in the history of transportation in America — a
return to the idea that transportation investment should be about
livability and community outcomes, not simply moving vehicles.

Other news from around the network: Bike Portland writes about the growing pedestrian advocacy movement in that city. City Walkabout posts on the importance of the stoop party in Pittsburgh. And Aaron Renn continues his analysis of the putative Pittsburgh renaissance over at New Geography.

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Scott Walker’s Own Party Rejects His Milwaukee Highway Boondoggle

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Governor Scott Walker might be too busy campaigning for president to care, but the Wisconsin legislature handed him a rebuke last week, rejecting his plans for debt-fueled highway expansion. The Republican-controlled legislature’s Joint Finance Committee trimmed about 35 percent off Walker’s proposed $1.3 billion in borrowing for highways. If approved by the Assembly and Senate — a big […]