We were honored last year when retiring Wisconsin Department of Transportation Secretary Mark Gottlieb agreed to serve on our board.
Gottlieb always struck us as a voice of calm reason and there was no doubt that he was committed to a multi-modal future. Sure, he wanted to build, improve and repair highways and bridges. Nothing wrong with that. But he was also supportive of facilities for cycling and walking and he understood the need for mass transit.
Last week I reported on a “study” by the MacIver Institute in which the “think” tank (I use these words in parentheses because I question how well they apply) attacked 14 bike projects as a waste of money that could have otherwise gone to road building.
We pointed out that all of those projects were funded through programs that could not have gone for road building. You could eliminate all of them and not save a dime for roads.
Moreover, these bike safety projects didn’t just happen. They happened because of local or state demand for those facilities. They happened with the active support (and often shared funding) of local governments. And they often happened at the urging of local business, chambers of commerce or tourist bureaus who saw their value for the local economy.
Now, Sec. Gottlieb has issued an impressive point-by-point rebuttal of the MacIver report.
He put his rebuttal in context when he wrote,
“I served six years as Secretary of the Department of Transportation under Governor Scott Walker. While I disagree with the Governor’s decision not to raise transportation revenue, and to continue to rely on unsustainable levels of borrowing, I respect his and the legislature’s right to make that determination. As a lifelong citizen of Wisconsin, it frightens me to think that their decisions might be based on the type of faulty analysis and false conclusions that characterize this report. For that reason, I have decided to speak up.”
In addition to challenging all of the 45 examples in the MacIver report, Gottlieb responded to each of the charges of bike project “waste.” His basic, clear response can be found in the very first claim made by MacIver that bike share stations in the Milwaukee suburbs were a waste of money that could have gone to roads:
“There is no state funding for bike and pedestrian facilities, and the federal funds can only be used for non-highway projects. Awarding federal dollars under a competitive program that can only be used for that specific purpose is not waste. These projects were applied for by local governments and federal funds were awarded on a competitive basis. The money could not legally be used for highway purposes.”
Gottlieb’s rebuttal is well worth reading. And this fact-based, measured response from the former secretary makes us even more proud that he agreed to join our board.