We need some truth in the Zoo Interchange debate

    The truth still matters. Will somebody tell State Sen. Ted Kanavas that?

    There are many, many controversial aspects to plans for reconstructing the Milwaukee area’s freeways. Who should pay the billions? How should the taxes be raised? Should the freeways be made bigger at the cost of clean air, clean water, lost property values and billions of dollars?

    Kanavas, a Brookfield Republican, argues in the case of the Zoo Interchange, argues that bigger is better. The problem is, he resorts to untruths to make his case. Is he lying? I hope not, but that leaves one other unflattering possibility: Kanavas is simply ignorant of Zoo Interchange reconstruction proposals included in the proposed 2007-09 budget now tied up in conference committee.

    It would have been better if Kanavas read the budget before voting on it.

    Kanavas got it wrong this week when he said in an opinion column that Gov. Jim Doyle fully funded the Zoo Interchange reconstruction project in his 2007-09 budget proposal. Kanavas got it wrong again when he said Senate Democrats reduced funding and prohibited expansion of the Interchange.

    Those things simply are not true. The full $24 million the governor proposed for studies related to later reconstruction of the Zoo Interchange is still there. The Senate did not reduce it, and neither did the Assembly. That $24 million, meant for engineering and environmental studies prior to actual reconstruction – is all the money the governor proposed for the project for the biennium.

    The Senate did remove a proposal that would have authorized the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to add lanes to the Zoo Interchange if WisDOT recommends them. There was no funding attached to that proposal, partly because no one knows how much the Zoo Interchange project will cost. The Senate was right to delete the provision and refuse to authorize a project before knowing its cost, design, impacts, and how the state would pay for it.

    It’s called  "fiscal responsibility." Kanavas ought to try it sometime.

    Kanavas got it wrong yet again when he said the Senate prohibited Zoo Interchange expansion. Not true. The Senate did insert a budget provision that would prohibit expansion of I-94 adjacent to historic Wood National Cemetery, which is well east of the Zoo Interchange project area.

    It’s rather unseemly of Kanavas to distort an effort to preserve the integrity of a national historic site honoring veterans who fought and died for this country so he can advance road builders’ financial interests. What would he tell Americans serving in Iraq and Afghanistan? The best they deserve if they are killed is to be buried beneath a freeway lane?

    Finally, it is shockingly irresponsible for anyone to suggest, as Kanavas did, that reconstruction of the interchange would be "useless" without expansion.

    Hello, senator. You there? You awake? The tragic Minnesota I-35 bridge collapse showed the importance of maintenance and rehabilitation of aging infrastructure. Kanavas must be the only one in the country not to get that message.

    Kanavas’ misstatements – whether deliberate or not – severely cripple his credibility in the freeway expansion debate. More importantly, they debase the image of the Wisconsin State Legislature in the eyes of the public just a little bit more.

    Gretchen Schuldt is co-chair of Citizens Allied for Sane Highways (CASH).

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