Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Road Warriors

WOW! I almost need a staff just to stay on top of and respond to all the misinformation and unenlightened opinions of Pat McIlheran at the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. (And, it should be noted, John Torinus' falsehood-spewing isn't far behind.)

Pat follwed up his last bit of nonsense with more of the same, Radical old idea: Let us move around.

In the latest expounding of obliviousness, Pat pushes for extending the Lake Parkway all the way to southern Oak Creek. Is there any problem more highways will not solve for these guys?

McIlheran then runs through the typical gamut of right-wing, development, talking-points: the automobile represents freedom, no one wants to ride the train/light-rail, and building on green space is cheap and therefore preferable.

His description of Pat Jursik's, Milwaukee County Board member, idea for this highway expansion is "revolutionary". In today's environment - sprawl, pollution, water shortages, crumbling roads and infrastructure, stressed budgets - to suggest we build more is absurd. To suggest we build mass transit options that alleviate our dependence on automobiles and highways is, as Pat would say, "Right on!"

McIlheran thinks that if we don't expand highways and if we do expand rail options, we are "cutting off people's options." Someone check into Pat's relationship with the highway lobby. Is there a status quo entity for which he is not a shill? Again, Pat goes back to the oldie but goodie, implying that because we are Americans we can do whatever we want...the planet be damned! Not building highways, continuing to allow us to spew pollutants, nor paving over green space somehow equates to American freedom and would be "cutting off our options".

He then goes on to show more ignornace regarding the latest research, and a complete blindness to a Milwaukee case study. He, agreeing with Jursik, pontificates that tearing down the highway and replacing it with a surface street or lift bridge would be foolish. Maybe they both should read, 4 Cases of How Tearing Down a Highway Can Relieve Traffic Jams.

They mention how surface streets isolate one area of the region from the other. But on the contrary, what they actually do is encourage high-density development and community along those surface streets. Just the opposite of what McIlheran and Jursik are proposing. They want to relieve surface streets of traffic - which would relieve the businesses along these streets of customers. This of course would lead to more exit-ramp, big-box retailers sprouting up along the highways so drivers can jump on and off to get items they might need on any given day. We'd hate to see people shopping in their own neighborhoods supporting local retailers and entrepreneurs. It's much better that we spend money at absentee-owned stores that pay a lower wage and subsequently siphon much of that spending outside our border. Basically, McIlheran and Jursik just want more of the same. More highways for more driving, just not on surface streets, so all of our driving can be at higher speeds, alongside more of the same, haphazard development we've seen over the last 50 years.

The boogeyman here is congestion. We need more highways to relieve all our congestion? What congestion? Milwaukee has one of the shorter commute times of any larger city. Milwaukee was recently ranked the third best city in the country for commuters by Forbes magazine.

We need an investment in rail. Being one of only two or three areas in the country without, or not planning, light-rail is bad for business, the environment, and our quality of life. And, this would only make our commute time even better.

Glaringly absent from the article is a discussion of induced demand. The phenomenon whereby building highways, adding lanes, actually increases congestion on those highways. But economic development, urban planning, and quality of life are obviously not Pat's forte. He's only worried about convenience.

Is McIlheran unaware of the environmental issues breathing down our necks? Or just unwilling to make lifestyle changes to avoid catastrophe? He even makes a crack about, "the silliness of opposing all new pavement." Seemingly, somehow, glorifying and proclaiming the righteousness of paving over open space. Again, showing his complete ignornace regarding the environmental issues with sprawling development.

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