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Off the Editor’s Desk 8-23-23

Mass Transit!

I would believe that all of us that have traveled on the Interstate Highway system here in Wisconsin and into Minnesota have experienced some delay in our travel because of several things, mostly road construction.

Two weeks ago on Sunday we traveled to Stoughton, Wisconsin, which is about fifteen miles southeast of Madison to attend the birthday party for my seven-year-old great-granddaughter.

Traffic on I-94 was, I would say, about normal in that we could travel at or above the posted limit. Traveling at the posted 70 miles an hour, you get almost run over, because you are not going fast enough.

That is until we got near Wisconsin Dells and then traffic was backed up and we had to slow down and even stop a couple of times around the Dells. I thought that at Portage where the interstate widens to three lanes each way that it would help us to get to the party. It did, but there is more traffic than the system can handle.

But, as if I needed more travel time on the system, on Saturday I left Glenwood City traveling to the Minnesota State Fairgrounds in Falcon Heights, MN. Most of the time it takes me just over an hour to get to the fairgrounds. However, with I-94 under construction traffic was stopped on the Hudson Bridge and moving at a snails pace in Minnesota, it took over two hours to make it to my destination.

The eastbound three lanes of I-94 in Minnesota is undergoing a $107.9 million dollar improvement project that will not be done until next year some time and on Saturday the westbound traffic was down to one lane, between Hudson and almost to the intersection of 494/694.

So would we be better off with some sort of mass transit system? We have carried stories about some sort of rail system between Eau Claire and the Twin Cities possibly along the old rail line that flows alongside of Highway 12.

So, if that line would stop at or near our community would I use it to get to Stoughton or to the fairgrounds in Falcon Heights?

Would it fit my time schedule, would it get me home again on time, what would the cost be and would I feel safe riding on it? I think, given the choice, we still would jump into our vehicle and face the backup.

So, what is the future of the Interstate system? I found the following “Renewing the National Commitment to the Interstate Highway System.”

“The Interstate Highway System was pivotal in shaping and supporting demographic, spatial, economic and social development in the United States. Today, the system is facing a perfect storm, while it continues to be a vital mobility network for the nation. It risks degradation and obsolescence from aging and excessive wear, difficulty accommodating new vehicle technologies, and vulnerabilities to climate change.

“Many Interstate Highway segments are more than 50 years old and subject to much heavier traffic than anticipated. They are operating well beyond their design life, made worse by lack of major upgrades or reconstruction. They are poorly equipped to accommodate even modest projections of future traffic growth, much less the magnitude of growth experienced over the past 50 years.

“Not only did the U.S. fail to invest appropriately in the past, funding for the next 20 years is facing a fast closing window. This 20-year period coincides with the entire system reaching the end of its design life. At the same time, it overlaps with the onset of automated, electric and connected vehicles as well as the growing impact of climate change.”

Here is what congress is asking the Transportation Research Board to do:

• Create a federal program dedicated to renewing and modernizing Interstate highways over the next 20 years.

• Develop criteria to meet demands to extend the Interstate system’s reach and remedy adverse impacts from past investments.

• Systematically assess the condition of Interstate bridges and pavement foundations.

• Raise the federal motor fuels tax to provide sufficient revenue for near-term system investments.

• Allow states and metro areas to toll more Interstate highways.

• Explore new funding mechanisms, including mileage-based use fees.

• Develop Interstate simulation tools and database to monitor and model impacts of investments.

• Plan for the transition to electric, automated, and connected vehicles.

• Build resilience to extreme weather and climate change into long-term improvement planning.

• Seek ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from Interstate traffic.

I am not a big believer in climate change garbage, but if we are forced to drive electric that will reduce the greenhouse gas emission from the highways, and put it on the generating facility.

Thanks for reading!     ~Carlton

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