Posts Tagged ‘paving’

Federal Highwaymen Paving Our Democracy Asunder

Friday, July 19th, 2013

I recently received this notice regarding, in their words:

…the metropolitan transportation planning process carried out by the Madison Area Transportation Planning Board (TPB), the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT), Metro Transit, and local units of government in the Madison metropolitan area….

The full notice was even more gobbledygookey cryptic; even a transportation geek like me had a hard time deciphering it. Specifically, they never cited what laws they were referring to.

Flying blind, I submitted comment anyway. You’ll find it below.

I went to the meeting.

There was only one other citizen there. (He had little to say other than moaning about the counter-flow bike lanes displacing parking spaces on campus.) It was a pitiful showing, but I think more indicative of the cryptic public notice than apathy on the part of citizens.

Federal policies are shaping our communities for decades to come. The question is, shaping those communities for whom? The Feds sent a phalanx of gray, middle aged, male bureaucrats. That’s whom. City/MPO did the same. (The lone woman bureaucrat present had nothing to say, so I assume she was on board with the highways.) It was all about building more, bigger highways for, by and of the dozen or so middle aged, white males present. Indeed, it was a cast worthy of the Soviet nomenklatura.

Oh sure, there was a crumb or two here & there to ameliorate a few of the many barriers to biking and walking presented by their megalomaniacal highways. And Bus Rapid Transit is but a pipe dream at the scale they are “planning.” They have no intention of funding it (thus the quotes). The crumbs and the fantastical are out there for window dressing only. Bait. Honeytraps. The stuff of Stockholm Syndrome. If we’re nice to our captors, embrace their manly highways, maybe, just maybe they’ll give us another bike path!

None of the MPO board members were there (except ex officio member, Madison Metro GM Chuck Kamp, who had to be there for job purposes related to the public notice).

Happy reading!


Madison Area MPO Comment


by Michael D. Barrett

I have observed and participated in transportation and land use planning issues in Madison and Dane County for almost 25 years. I am trained as an urban geographer.

Here’s what I think of Federal funding priorities as planned by our MPO and prioritized by USDOT: It stinks. It’s all about highways. And your highways are nothing more than the new Jim Crow with a concrete face. It’s the epitome of Reverse Robin Hood, stealing from cities to promote rich suburbs. It’s about gated communities, but instead of gates you use concrete expanses to wall off the people you deem as undesirable – the carless, the aged, the young, the poor, people who are not white. Yes, I’m calling you racist. I’m calling you age-ist. I’m calling you classist. In other words you build landscapes for well-wheeled middle aged white men. Everyone else be damned. You should be ashamed of yourselves.

Your Federal policies militate against our community’s expressed political will. Over and over again the people of Dane County, Madison and surrounding  communities have elected stellar individuals who want to do the right thing. Witness electoral revolutions with the election of unabashed enviros like Kathleen Falk and Dave Cieslewicz and the very conservation-oriented council and board. In every League of Women Voters questionnaire for elected office virtually every candidate espouses transit, biking and walking over highways. Falk and Cieslewicz had made careers of fighting your highways. Plan after plan for this region, down to the neighborhood level, emphasizes community over cars, a clean environment over sprawl; inclusivity over segregation. The people’s voice is unequivocal: we want clean air, clean water, inclusivity, social justice and a land use/transportation paradigm that supports those goals. Furthermore, our elected officials explicitly ran on platforms promoting community cohesiveness, across race and class lines. Instead, your policies forced our elected leaders into making bad decisions that ultimately got them thrown out of office or blocked from higher office.

In other words your policies are overtly political. They militate against the will of the people.

Your federal highway funds proved to be a gusher, an endless source of cash, while you people constricted funds for transit, bicycling and walking. Everything our elected representatives stood for, your policies militated against.  Your policies backed Falk into a corner on the very unpopular US Highway 12 expansion. Her political base never forgot that, and she paid dearly for it. Without her most ardent supporters, she didn’t stand a chance for higher political office.  Similarly your policies forced road expansion onto us even under the leadership of the most ardent, pro-urban environmentalist ever to lead a city. Your easy highway money and shrinking transit money proved to be an embarrassment that alienated his base. Mayor Dave became Mayor Pave. When federal funds were used to jack up highway spending by 558% over the course of his tenure – 558%!!!!! – while slashing federal support for clean, city-supporting modes, the environmentalist mayor’s political base evaporated.

See this graph of the Madison City Budget? Now look at the top line. The one going straight up is paving, increasing at 558% during Cieslewicz’s tenure. The other lines are social services and parks: Flatlined during the same period. Now look at the debt that has been racked up to service your over-sized roads. Your highways are crushing our city’s budgets.

Your policies are overtly political.

Those elected representatives represented the will of the people. By embarrassing them with these anti-community funding priorities, you negated the will of the people.

You are a politically vindictive organization.

I oppose your anti-democratic policies. I oppose your racism. Your Neo-Jim Crow. Your social-exclusion-by-highway. Get out of our community, leave us alone. Return our taxes free of all strings and get out of the way while we build a sustainable city. We want a city that requires no war for our mobility. We want a city that protects our climate as we get around. We want a city that is protective of children’s lungs. We want a city that promotes healthy, active, neighborhood-friendly ways of getting around.  We want a city that is inclusive and for all people, not just the well-wheeled. We will no longer serve as suburbanites’ doormats.

I notice the MPO board is not present. Had they been here, I would have told them:

As for you people on the MPO, get a spine. Stand up to these highwaymen. Start thinking creatively. Stop blasting ugliness through our neighborhoods. Start joining with the people in building *community* not commuter sprawlways.

Everything about this organization has militated against the expressed will of the people. You should be ashamed of yourselves. I oppose you because you have incompetently executed the will of the people.

I recommend that this body be decertified from receiving federal funds.

The siting of this meeting at this isolated location speaks volumes as to whom the MPO wants to hear from. Bus service is scant at best. Parking is ample. We are located adjacent to a giant highway. It’s a long way to walk anywhere from here. So the assumption must be that only car drivers’ views are wanted.

Regarding your introductory remarks: You speak of congestion as if it were the root of all evil. I disagree: Congestion is good for cities. It is the sign of a healthy city. It is a sign that people want to be there. Slow car traffic is the best friend of pedestrians, bicyclists and transit users.

[I also entered into the record a copy of the latest (2012) League of Women Voters questionnaire of Dane County Supervisor Candidates (showing their support for transit, walking, biking); a copy of the budget graphs in the article linked above; a copy of a 2011~ 1000 Friends of WI newsletter article showing how much money Wisconsinites spend on roads out of their property and income taxes (i.e. only about 50% of the total road budget is paid for by gas taxes and other car user fees; in other words, socialism for cars; rapacious capitalism for the rest of us).]


US 51/WIS 19 camera image.

Sen. Mark Miller’s (D-Monona) $40,000,000.00 gift to the Seven. Thousand. Very. Republican. Villagers. of DeForest.

Keep in mind that the USDOT policies I cite here should not be taken as letting the likes of Falk or Cieslewicz or other locals off the hook. Ultimately, though the concrete dope was free, they injected the needle into the arm of the body politic of their own free will. Furthermore, USDOT’s pro-highway/anti-community policies are the products of pavement-friendly votes by other good liberals/progressives such as US Rep. Mark Pocan, US Senator Russ Feingold (ret) and US Senator Tammy Baldwin. Liberals on the state level have similarly taken the needle and the candy. From 2008-2010 Dane County Democrats – State Rep Mark Pocan, State Senator Mark Miller and Governor Jim Doyle –  held total power over the finances of state government as co-chairs of the all-powerful Joint Finance Committee and as the state’s chief executive (respectively). Truly, they were the patrons to the highwaymen clients in the nomenklatura of the Soviet Socialist Party of Pavers. Much like their Republican counterparts, they prioritized paving over people. Indeed, the pavers are of one party regardless of whether an R or D follows their name. I hold Mark Miller in particular contempt given his $40,000,000 (and counting) pork project more than doubling the size of US Highway 51 to serve the seven thousand Very. Special. Villagers. of. DeForest. while slashing state and federal investment in transit for 225,000 not-so-special Madison citizens.

Consider asking your alder why they continue to fund paving at the expense of people. Then ask your county board supervisor. Then ask your state rep. Then your US rep. Then ask your US Senator why she thinks more concrete is healthy. Always, always question. Then denounce. Because they just don’t get it. Because they are loyal party apparatchiks.

Needling the Power: Rummel’s High Road Strategy

Sunday, April 28th, 2013

I’ve always admired Salman Rushdie’s hammering of the arrogant, the powerful. This is classic.

Very much brings to mind the dynamic on our neighborhood’s listserv ( People who question the arrogant power-wielders get routinely trashed by the listserv-marms. Those enforcers of civility (well, their short-sighted version thereof) are (at best) mute to,  and (more accurately) apologists for actual, physical abuses of power. Our local alder, Marsha Rummel, for instance, is all about destroying air, land and water with her paving ways, but the establishment progressives come rushing to her defense the moment her policies come into question. To question–with words–her physical abuse of our environment (and the people who drink water and breathe air) brings denunciations of, “Cyber-bully!” or snide condescensions of “That’s not how we do it in the 6th.” And the ultimate: question her votes for trashing the air we breathe and the water we drink and you get thrown off of your city commission (or, alternately, your appointment gets blocked). As you can see from my previous posts, her violence against our aquifer is now starting to cost us–in cash–as ratepayers and taxpayers. I’ve written extensively about its effects on our city finances over the years; here’s a classic. (Make sure to click through to the “Madison is paving itself into oblivion” article–yes, she voted for all of those extreme paving budgets except for the ’09 budget.)


Rummel’s “High Road Strategy”

But the defenders of Rummel’s pollution-as-usual policies are always successful in cowing those ready to move forward from her 1950s mentality. Every election her oh-so-sensible defenders sniff, nose in the air, with condescending disgust, their “disappointment” that an opposing candidate would have the temerity to actually run against such a progressive saint as Marsha Rummel. The stalwarts of progressive piety denounce as blasphemy any opposition: To merely run against Rummel brings on denunciations of not being sufficiently “high road” to represent the district; “That we just don’t do negative campaigns in Madison;” etc. To run against Rummel is to invite the wrath of God Herself. And the district bows down before the icon; the last two elections it voted in droves for the symbol over substance–70% for Rummel.

And thus continues the paving, the annihilation of our drinking water and the air we breathe, the diversion of city resources from the poor, from basic services. Yup, the most proudly liberal/progressive district in the universe voted for it.

More to come on all that, I’m sure.

And the Paving Goes On….

Thursday, December 15th, 2011
Just sent this to the Long Range Transportation Planning Committee:
Dear Commissioners,
How can any of these highway expansion options be acceptable in light of the budget squeeze caused by all of the over-paving that has been approved by this commission?
The following article details the destruction your transportation planning has wrought upon our city’s finances: “Madison is paving itself into oblivion,” by Michael Barrett

Don’t you think you’ve done quite enough to wreck our city’s finances as well as its livability?

Cease all further paving expansion until:

a) the budget is back on track and,
b) City Engineering is put on a road diet that allows expansion only in line with population growth starting from a 1990 baseline *minus* 10 % (to be Kyoto Protocol-compliant). 
c) The entire city bureaucracy learns how to work together, synergistically, to promote a vibrant economy with a whole lot less driving and a whole heck of a lot less paving.

I have heard from several commissioners here and on other commissions that you have no choice but to expand paving because all of the developments surrounding these roads are built to car-oriented standards. 

Funny that. When I was on Urban Design Commission, we would routinely press the developers to rein in the car-orientation of the very developments surrounding the segments of CTH M in question. Their response? “While we support New Urbanist principles, we can’t apply them here because the city engineer has designed the roads so large as to make these principles unworkable. We have to design them for cars, not people.” The city’s planners would nod their heads and testify to reinforce car supremacy.

UDC would sometimes even go so far as to nix some of these developments, but in most cases they would make it through, since many commissioners had sympathy for the bind the developers claimed they were in (or Plan Commission would override us, in the case of the rejected plans.) (Disclosure: I was thrown off of UDC for refusing to approve such anti-human landscapes.)

So then I discover, from conversations with individual commissioners on LRTPC, Plan Commission, Board of Public Works and PBMVC that you believe that you aren’t responsible, because–get this–the development surrounding these roadways is so car-oriented!

The developers say the highwaymen made them do it, the highwaymen say the developers made them do it, and everyone blames the planners. The planners blame everyone else. If you corner any one of these parties in this blame-game, they’ll then deflect further and blame the individuals on their respective commissions. The commissioners blame their staff, or the alder. Or the mayor. The alder blames the commissions. The mayor blames the alder. 

And the devil made you all do it.

At some point, don’t you think you should brain up and take responsibility for your own conscience and just vote no?

After all, the nasty landscapes you are creating out there just keep sinking in value, thanks to their auto-centricity. No one wants to live in such ugly places. They suck. And they are not sustainable from any perspective–economic or ecologic. Meanwhile, places built with people in mind keep holding their value, and even increasing, through the worst economic downturn since the Depression. 

I see from the commission roster that many of you should know better. Are you asleep? Are you afraid? If so, it may be time to submit your resignation. These are times for bold leadership, not cowering before megalomaniacal engineers.

Your charge is to make this city better, not worse. But making it worse seems to be all that comes out of this committee and your home committees.

A 558% 11-year growth rate for paving is obscene. End it.


Michael D. Barrett
2137 Sommers Avenue
Madison, WI 53704

Pave, Baby, Pave!

Sunday, May 1st, 2011

Do I hear four dollars?!!!


And it is all the more laughable because the lessons that should have been learned  30 & 40 years ago

….Seem to have gone unlearned.

Consider the upcoming couple of weeks at city council & commissions (thanks to a well-informed neighbor for these insights):

1. Tuesday May 3 5:30 PM City Council Discussion of Transportation Improvement Plan 2012-2017.(Actual TIP schedule here in pdf.) Why should a government body use the word ‘Transportation’ as cover for Road Building? It’s one thing for the Road Builders to use it. It’s clever, actually. To change your name from the “Road Builders” to the “Transportation Builders” it appears to furnish much broader cover for your interests. But if 99.4% of what will be discussed Tuesday is paving, shouldn’t it be listed as Council Discussion of Paving?

[And let’s not forget the loaded term “Improvement.” Um, improvement for whom? The paving expansions are certainly not improvements for people who breathe. Or who don’t like wars. Or who like clean drinking water. Or who like neighborly communities.]

2. City Streets Division says, First give us new pavement, too.
Board of Public Works Wednesday May 4 Agenda Item 29.
Here’s a top City priority! In this time of tight dollars ~ ‘We have no money’ ~ we apparently have money for the Streets Division to repave its 1501 West Badger Road asphalt parking lot and pavement area. There’s some kind of twisted irony in having Streets Division pavement be a top City priority. Here’s an opportunity for the City to demonstrate how Sustainable it is by installing permeable pavers as a demo project. Show the New Urbanism Conference people how thoughtful, progressive we are.

[Ditto the proposed expansion of the death zone known as Dutch Mill Park & Ride (Agenda Item 14). In fact, why expand it at all? Park & Rides are so 1973. The right thing would be to simply allow it to become more of a “kiss & ride” (drop off spot for inter-city bus passengers) rather than an isolated, “free” parking lot attracting crime (and it is a hot spot). Add to that, all of the ills associated with over-pavement: sealing off our aquifer, magnifying water quality problems, heat island generator, etc.]

3. Coming Attractions! MORE PAVEMENT AT MATC!!
MAY 16 Plan Commission set to consider tons more pavement at MATC – Yah! More impermeable surface! That’s what we need! There’s Education in Action!, heh? There’s educators setting a model. Add to Free Parking. Pave more of the earth. Tell kids (single-occupancy vehicles) to drive ever farther to get an ‘Education’. Drive, Kids. Don’t Worry! Plenty of Free Parking!

[Downstream from MATC’s planned flood generator? Emerson-East-Eken Park, Darbo-Worthington, Schenk-Atwood-Starkweather-Yahara neighborhoods. Throw-away places, trashy people in the eyes of MATC administrators. The physical safety of your neighborhoods are not their concern. For those residents, le deluge.]

So there you have it: A city hardwiring itself for mandatory driving, mandatory energy gluttony, mandatory dirty water, mandatory flooding. Pave, Baby, PAVE!

But I would like to keep hope….

La Speranza

I really would.

‘Sleeper’ items on Tuesday Council Agenda: Before the Pave, the Pipe

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010
Below is an excellent little analysis of a couple of items destined to be rubber stamped by our paving council this evening. This comes from a small local listserv*:
On just about every City Council Agenda you’ll find ‘sleeper’ items — seemingly innocuous — but which have huge implications in future.
Twenty-or forty-years from now, if someone asks, How did this happen? How did it get this way? What were they thinking?, these are the kinds of items that caused ‘it’ to ‘get this way’.
These items will almost certainly get little or no discussion Tuesday — yet they deserve thought and discussion as surely as The Edgewater did.
66. Felland Road Sanitary Sewer Phase 2 — This is what opens up an area to development — the sanitary sewer. So, here we are, along Felland Road, out in the Town of Burke [far east fringes of Madison], spreading further and further out. I’d love to see a list of names on the Front Page of the State Journal, above the fold, of individuals who will benefit from thi$.
80. MATC Parking – Look at the disaster MATC surface parking is already. When Plan Commission questioned MATC about their paving plans, a while back, we suddenly — coincidence? — saw a flurry of “news” stories about how MATC kids can’t find a place to put their cars. Has this item been thoroughly aired? — and discussed? Will someone pull this item off the Consent Agenda — and challenge MATC on what they’re doing out there?
On the Felland Rd water & sewer: I’d add something that this particular quoted author has said before: “No water, no development.” I’d also add that the city is making a huge mistake in not making bottom-line sustainability demands before approving the water system. For starters, that would include, the most rigorous sustainability, inclusivity and accessibility standards possible (net zero energy homes, walking-oriented, completely interconnected with the rest of the city on a neighborhood street grid, 95% car-free, frequent public transportation, housing affordability levels fully mixed in, and that match the city’s current demographics, etc.).

On the MATC issue: in this age of straitened budgets, high unemployment, and environmental destruction (thanks to our car-oriented lifestyle), the parking lot whiners at MATC deserve no taxpayer funded bailout for their wasteful campus design. And the people who live downstream from the proposed paved acreage should not have to pay by having to suffer from the increased flooding that will result. More paving = more flooding.

In both cases, we are hardwiring our city for waste, unsustainability and economic & ecologic rigormortis forevermore.

It is very, very unfortunate that we have a council that is so uniformly unable to analyze, anticipate and reflect on the long term implications of their votes. The mayor is, of course, a lost cause. Corporate. Bought & paid for. A mindless cash-seeking robot.  But one would think that at least the nominal progressives would question the stupidity.

Instead, we’ll have to duck as they wield their well-worn rubber stamps.

*The author usually likes to fly beneath the radar, thus, the post shall be left unattributed, unless author requests otherwise.

Mayor Pave’s Green Paving, Shingling

Wednesday, August 5th, 2009

Budget season is upon us.

The Pavin’ Mayor has it all worked out that paving & shingling over 2500 acres is somehow ‘green’.

And he’s got the money to do it.

Here’s how it works. In the good times boost paving budgets through the stratosphere (in the adopted 2009 budget he boosted the paving budget by 60%, while every other budget but the police department went stagnant or was cut). This sets a new, outrageously elevated “adjusted base budget” for the highwaymen to work from. So even if the highway department had to endure a 6% cut along with the rest of the departments, their budget would still be some 55% higher than it was in 2008. (This, in a deflationary financial environment and a population growth rate of under 1%….)

In other words, a cut would not be a cut in the big scheme of things. It would be paving as usual for the highwaymen.

The rest of the city departments would continue to experience real cuts upon real cuts that get progressively deeper and are compounded each year. When looked at over the course of the 7 years that this mayor has been gratuitously paving, we’re starting to look at amputations in the non-paving departments.

We should expect to see drastically cut bus service, more fare hikes, and a myriad of other cuts to city services and hikes in city fees after this budget is ground out.

But definitely expect a lot more paving. For unimaginative politicians konkrete is the solution to everything.