Monday, March 28, 2011

The Zoo Interchange - this is insane!

You know, the awareness just settles in at times - this realization that we are really crazy, that we stand before our mounting problems and crises like deer in the headlights, stunned and startled, paralyzed - and then we throw the very same 'solutions' at them that created them in the first place.

Source: DOT & Journal Sentinel
And so the new 'scaled-down' plans for the reconstruction of the Zoo Interchange.

The headline screamed off the front page this morning: "Interchange plan affects Tosa streets." Okay, maybe that's not a scream, maybe the screaming nature of these words is in the ears of the reader:

"What are you doing?!?!  Are you out of your mind?!?!"

Actually, I have been feeling that simmering scream since all the talk began about the UWM-anchored research park, the plans for development on the County Grounds, plans to put thousands more workers and supporting businesses into this already fully packed, dense suburban area.

I grew up in Tosa, so forgive me for having a somewhat personal stake in this plan. I mean, it is not a long walk from the interchange to the house in which I grew up - before Swan Blvd. was cut through, before the freeway and Mayfair Mall were built, long before that environmental disaster called 'flood control' that destroyed the community gardens and lots of beautiful woods.

Now they want to put thousands more cars and more air pollution and more and more commerce and a vastly heavier development footprint right there, adding directly to the already cramped density, trampling what is left of the green spaces and parks that made that area a bit of an island in the midst of upscale suburban sprawl.

Waukesha County officials want this. For a long time, they have wanted wider freeways and more traffic lanes to feed their own version of sprawl. They want to develop by way of cars and trucks and traffic.

So, here's the future - all this density and crush of traffic and people and commuters being constructed at the same time as we will begin to really feel the looming energy shortages, as gas prices go to $5-$6 per gallon and more over the next decade - because it does not matter what political party is in office, this is going to be a function of those shortages. Demand is up, supply is barely meeting it, and demand is going to continue to go up and supply will begin to decline.

Here's what you won't see either Scott Walker or Waukesha County officials support - an urgent beginning to the development of a light rail system to carry human beings when all those SUVs and cars and trucks are no longer practical or realistic. There was even federal money for this, and the potential for many, many jobs, but jobs are not really what these folks are concerned about. It's what kind of jobs and in whose service.

I live in Bay View and have imagined a world in which I could just take my monthly trolley pass and walk a couple of blocks to a stop on  KK and be downtown in 10 minutes, or in Tosa, say, in 15 or 20, reading my paper or my book, the car parked in the garage except when really needed.

Not in the world of the Koch brothers, Scott Walker, or the road-building lobby that contributed so generously to his campaign (see this article from the Journal Sentinel).

Sometimes I wonder where this state is headed. This is a classic case of operating out of the same mindset, the same consciousness, that created the problem in the first place (thank you, Albert Einstein). We are simply not getting how much the world is changing and that continuing to 'develop' like this is leading rapidly to TILT!

This is not innovation. It is, rather, expression of a profound lack of creativity in an increasingly crowded, crunched, ecologically damaged world combined with corporate interests who hope you will continue to want to live like an isolated individual - stuck in rush hour traffic while your vehicle burns gas at $5 per gallon spewing pollution into the air and wrecking more of what is left of our green spaces.

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