[NOTE: See update at bottom of post]
Come and bear witness to the overwhelming power of the road building lobby. Watch as a city with countless infrastructure and service deficiencies will almost certainly vote to commit half a million dollars of Franklin taxpayer money -- cleverly camouflaged -- to an interchange project that is A) unneeded by Franklin, well-served by two interchanges, and B) bound to occur whether or not Franklin throws city funds at Oak Creek -- even as the Federal government launches initiative after initiative designed to bolster communities that pursue alternative transportation options.
There are politicians already penciling in the anticipated date of groundbreaking so they can get there for their photo opp. You would be very naive to think Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker's March leash-snapping in Florida (Florida?) by Wisconsin road builders did not include pointed, back-room reminders as to the fact they effectively own him. (I picture elegant table centerpieces at a gala "build we must" banquet, each festooned with the name of a promised project. Right next to the relish on Table 16: The Drexel Interchange.)
It's a done deal.
Any politician betting on a Walker gubernatorial victory very likely got on the phone. Greendale Republican legislator Jeff Stone, who "brokered" the potential Oak Creek-Franklin pay-to-play deal, will expect his reward, and a Golden Shovel at the gala groundbreaking.
Meanwhile, Franklin will continue to postpone maintenance and needed upgrades. "Fiscal conservative" aldermen will attempt to derail pedestrian facilities in front of our high school as "too expensive," while tripping over themselves to send $500,000 to Oak Creek -- and get their hands on a Golden Shovel.
Franklin Mayor Tom Taylor -- who could have broken the deadlock at the last common council meeting, and, to his credit, did not fall sway to siren call of the Golden Shovel -- has said he does not want Franklin taxpayer funds going across 27th Street to Oak Creek. He wants the council to "get creative" in tonight's meeting. He is likely barking up the wrong tree.
So, come and watch - 6pm at Franklin City Hall. And, after the meeting, get back in your car; if you want to enjoy a coffee and conversation it will have to be in another community, because Franklin has not been "creative" enough up to this point to inspire a single coffee shop, deli, ice cream store, or other public gathering place within walking distance of its library, city hall and central city park.
And, as soon as this superfluous Interchange goes in, any chance Franklin had at developing the sorts of neighborhood-based, human-scale amenities that spur growth of a deep, sustainable local economy will be dashed like a bug on a windshield. It'll be Starbucks, Perkins, Sbarro, Dairy Queen, etc., all swarmed up close to interchange, suckling on the sea of cars exiting the interchange for a bite before they get back on and barrel onward.
Because, you see, we're a drive-thru town, and tonight will seal the deal.
More from Infrastructurist:
We’ve discussed how democracy has played a major part in our failure to have a modern rail system. And like it or not, our electoral system has had a bigger role than most people would like to admit in contributing to the dire state of our existing infrastructure. A report released this week by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, titled “Road Work Ahead: Holding Government Accountable for Fixing America’s Crumbling Roads and Bridges,” supports this idea:
The deterioration of our roads and bridges is no accident. Rather, it is the direct result of countless policy decisions that put other considerations ahead of the pressing need to preserve our investment in the highway system. Political forces often undermine a strong commitment to maintenance: Members of Congress, state legislators and local politicians thrive on ribbon-cuttings. Powerful special interests push for new and bigger highways. Meanwhile, federal and state policies – which should provide strong guidance in the wise use of taxpayer dollars – often fail to achieve the proper balance between building new infrastructure and taking care of what we already have built.In other words, politicians get reelected by building (and funding) new shiny roads and bridges that offer plenty of photo-ops and nice padding for their resumes come election time. What’s far less sexy and soundbite-worthy is “I fixed every crumbling bridge and pothole-ridden road in this state.” For an unskilled politician, these massive new projects can lead to disaster (the Bridge to Nowhere, anyone?). But for most always-election-ready officials in D.C., new highways and bridges are easy makeshift symbols of progress and “getting things done.”
I learned via Greg Kowalski that turnout for the special meeting will likely be sparse due to other activities planned for tonight:
FRANKLIN PUBLIC LIBRARY: All meeting rooms are BOOKED tonight
FOREST PARK MIDDLE SCHOOL: Franklin Citizens for Community Development at 6:30pm.
FRANKLIN PUBLIC SCHOOLS is having their reorganization meeting tonight
GREENDALE HIGH SCHOOL has a nationally-known speaker on teen/parent relationships tonight starting at 6pm.