Some semi-random thoughts on what has become the Barrett Bypass:
- The moment I-94 between the airport and the Illinois border became the post-Marquette priority at the end of 2004, this became inevitable. The 2005 veto of engineering funds by Jim Doyle (supported by Tom Barrett) and the 2009 veto of most of the engineering funds (again a joint Doyle/Barrett production) would not have done anything to stop this. On the other hand, Barrett had a big hand in Doyle making that decision – at the time, it had been widely expected that the Zoo Interchange would be the post-Marquette priority, and Barrett’s staunch opposition to a Zoo rebuild that would accomodate an 8-lane Zoo-to-Marquette I-94 led Doyle to the “expedient” alternative.
- That said, had the Zoo been rebuilt first, it is quite conceivable that before the Mitchell Interchange would have been rebuilt, it would have faced a similar situation. While those bridges (carrying traffic from I-894 to both directions of I-94, and to I-894 from northbound I-94) are 4 years newer than the Zoo bridges, they were of the same superstructure as both the failing Zoo bridges and the Marquette bridges.
- The $1.2 billion that Doyle raided from the transportation fund is another key component. Do remember that on this type of project, the federal government typically pays for 80% of the cost. Thus, a $1.4 billion rebuild of the Zoo would have required $280 million from the state.
- As for the $820 or so million for the car-speed train between Milwaukee and Madison’s airport, while that “stimulus” money is earmarked for that specific project, Doyle and company could have, instead of trying to cram commuter rail down our throats, applied to use that money for rebuilding the Zoo.
- Bold prediction – once the last “original” bridge (the US-45 northbound bridge over I-94 westbound) is replaced (ahead of the 2016 “start date”), if Barrett’s governor, he’ll declare the Zoo fixed for “all time” (or at least until he departs the governor’s office). There are two bridges with rebuilt superstructures (the pair of US-45 southbound bridges, rebuilt in 1984).
- If you believe that it will take until Memorial Day to open the northbound US-45 bridge, I’ve got a bridge to sell you. The deck of the new structure was already poured before the Friday closure. In fact, the guys at the very-unofficial ScottForGov.com blog are predicting the new bridge will be open before Opening Day (that would be next Monday).