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Higgins talks Skyway, ignores facts

Buffalo Rising posted this interview with Congressman Higgins. First topic – the Skyway. I didn’t need to get more than 5 minutes into the interview to unravel it. Higgins talks about his new best friend, John Norquist, head of the Congress for the New Urbanism.

“What is readily apparent to him has been lost on local leaders for decades – and that is that you have to remove these elevated sections of highway, be it along the 190 or the Skyway, to promote private sector investment… In Milwaukee, Wisconsin $250 million in private sector investment immediately followed upon removal of a section of elevated section of highway.”

Good spin, but the question is why was there $250 million in private sector investment all of a sudden? Because removal of the roadway freed up a lot of the land underneath it in an existing urban area that could benefit from the new space. The government turned the land over to private investment. It wasn’t really the roadway that was the source of the problem, it was that the land was in government hands, strikingly similar to how the NFTA owned the waterfront land for all these years prohibiting development. Milwaukee’s barrier was partially physical where ours is strictly governmental.

It leads me to the same conclusion I keep coming to – demolition of the Skyway now is premature. Now that the NFTA’s grip on the land has been loosened, development can occur regardless of the Skyway’s continued existance. Unlike Milwaukee, we have no shortage of land to develop.

And could Norquist and in turn Higgins be pushing numbers that are only theoretical and not actual? This article by the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute seems to say so:

“The removal of this freeway created hope that up to $300 million in new commercial and residential projects might be developed. In reality, the opposite situation has occurred. Nearly two years later, virtually nothing has been done with this prime real estate in downtown Milwaukee… Onerous rules passed by the Milwaukee County Board have made the input costs of “producing” development in the Park East Corridor more expensive by raising wages, controlling hiring and mandating what can and cannot be built. It should not be surprising to anyone that understands the basics of economics that this policy has led developers to produce their developments somewhere else, where the input costs are lower, and leave the Park East Corridor a barren wasteland.”

I’m agahst! Politicians playing to emotions and ignoring economics? Touting numbers like they’re facts before they are actualized? It can’t be.

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  1. I cannot believe the way BR is eating up Higgins crap. Higgins has proven that he is a master of acquiring control of the capital resources and assets of the taxpayers and reallocating them to the delight of the economically uneducated plethora of voters.

  2. Why? ummm you can’t really build condos/retail or anything under a freeway, and almost nobody builds anything but parking lots next to it, the why was the physical land was being wasted. The land in Milwaukee hasn’t been “turned” over to private development, both the city and the county have been reviewing RFPs and then selecting the projects they wish to sell to developers.

    Things on the PE have not sprung up overnight but development takes time. This summer 3 projects break groud (one last week) in the PE area and there are numerous developer plans on the table (I’ve seen them), that could never of even been contemplated because of the highway before. The PE simply cut Milwaukee in half and created a large blighted area. Hell if they could drop I-794 as well it would be even better.

    The pictures you show to replace the highway are misleading, what was built in Milwaukee was simply a boulevard and its quite walkable. PS walk under a raised highway at night, it doesn’t seem that friendly at all.

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