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Press Release: WisDOT Proposal for I-94 Project Could Lead to More Severe Crashes

Press Release: WisDOT Proposal for I-94 Project Could Lead to More Severe Crashes

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE February 19, 2015

WisDOT Proposal for I-94 Project Could Lead to More Severe Crashes

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s traffic crash analysis presented in their Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the I-94 Corridor Study has been criticized as “incomplete and misleading” by 1000 Friends of Wisconsin. The land use group’s transportation analyst reviewed the report and found that the proposal to expand the highway could actually lead to more severe crashes on the highway.

The analysis found that WisDOT does not address the real safety issues in the corridor – severe crashes that are caused due to excessive speeding and driving under the influence of alcohol. The analysis concludes that the proposed expansion is likely to exacerbate these problems. WisDOT’s own Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the project states, on page 4-40, that the crash problem can be resolved with a non-4-lane option with at-grade improvements; in other words, repairing, not expanding, the highway with spot improvements.

“The Wisconsin Department of Transportation has failed to make a case for expanding the highway and misrepresented the safety impacts of the proposed project to justify their position,” said Steve Hiniker, Executive Director of 1000 Friends of Wisconsin. “WisDOT’s preferred solution would likely lead to more safety problems than a much cheaper alternative.”

1000 Friends of Wisconsin found that the Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s crash analysis is cursory and inadequate. It fails to distinguish between minor fender-benders and more serious crashes that lead to severe injuries or death. In fact, while the roadway does have a higher overall crash rate compared to other similar roadways, expanding the highway could lead to more severe crashes.

WisDOT does not acknowledge that all of the fatal crashes and a majority of severe injury causing crashes occurred off peak hours due to excessive speeds. It also did not acknowledge that alcohol was a key factor in more than one third of severe crashes – something that highway expansion would not address.

1000 Friends of Wisconsin transportation analyst, Ash Anandanarayanan had requested more details from WisDOT about the agency’s incomplete crash analysis but did not receive a substantial explanation. The study was therefore carried out through data obtained from a database maintained by the University of Wisconsin.

“Safety improvements can be made at a far lower cost without expanding the capacity of the highway. By widening the highway, off peak hour speeding could increase, leading to more severe crashes” said Hiniker.

“WisDOT is justifying a billion-dollar project with an incomplete and misleading crash analysis. Clearly, they were more interested in laying the groundwork for highway expansion than they were in actually looking to implement cost effective solutions to safety concerns.” 1000 Friends urged WisDOT to carry out a revised alternative selection process and find a solution that would reduce fatalities and severe injuries on the corridor in a cost effective manner.

“Make no mistake: This at-grade expansion is a billion-dollar boondoggle that’s just as bad as the double-decker,” said Peter Skopec, WISPIRG Campaigns Director. “Instead of wasting hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to add lanes, WisDOT should repair the highway with the existing number of lanes, fix local roads and invest in transit instead. If nothing else, legislators should stand up for taxpayers and refuse to fund this wasteful proposal.”

“This project is a solution in search of a problem. We call on WisDOT to explain how their preferred solution of expanding the highway is safer than simply implementing spot improvements on the existing highway, without expansion,” concluded Hiniker.

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