|Vol. 9 No. 25
DECEMBER 11, 2014
Publisher & Editor
Lisa Peyton-Caire, Eileen Hocker,
Alfonso Zepeda Capistran, Theola
Carter, Fabu, Lang Kenneth Haynes,
Heidi Pascual, and Donna Parker
Webmaster: Heidi M. Pascual
Jobs on the Horizon
Last week, I took the time to attend a presentation by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) and Strand Associates on their
preliminary findings in a study to make improvements to the Beltline corridor. Anyone who drives the Beltline during the morning or afternoon
rush hours knows that the stretch from John Nolen Drive to Fish Hatchery Road is a bottleneck that causes traffic along the beltline to stop or
move like molasses in January.
WisDOT and Strand Associates have been looking at different ways to relieve the traffic congestion including the building of a southern route
from Verona Road over to I-39/I-90, the building of a northern route north of Lake Mendota, improved bus transit along the corridor and
improvements to pedestrian and bicycle routes. While all of these may be desired for other reasons, this preliminary study suggests that none
of them will significantly decrease the Beltline congestion, especially with the projected growth in jobs in areas adjacent to the Beltline or
areas accessed by it.
So what does this mean? It means that significant highway construction/ reconstruction in the Madison area could continue into the 2030s.
Over the next 2-3 years, the Beltline-Verona Road interchange will be rebuilt and a bridge over Verona Road at Hwy. PD will be built. Other
possible bridges are being considered on Verona Road between Verona and the Beltline. Also over the next few years, the reconstruction and
widening of I-39/I-90 will be occurring, beginning in the Janesville area and coming right up to Madison’s southern border. And at some point,
the I-39/I-90 interchange will be completely rebuilt.
Now any WisDOT work on the Beltline has to undergo several studies and decision-making points, including an environmental impact study,
before the first “Road Construction Ahead” signs are put in place. The work that was done on the Beltline this past summer was just to keep it
operational until the major Beltline reconstruction occurs.
The environmental impact study will be a crucial step in the process. There are economically-challenged neighborhoods along the Beltline,
from the northern reaches of the Allied Drive area to South Madison to Bridge-Lake Point. There is a lot of affordable housing along this corridor
and so it will be important for these areas to have their say and be involved during the environmental impact study to ensure that the Beltline
project will not adversely impact their residential and economic interests.
In the old days, Interstate highways were built right through the heart of African American communities i.e. Milwaukee’s Bronzeville in the early
1960s and hastened their economic and social decline. Measures have since been put in place like environmental impact studies to ensure
this doesn’t happen again. But people in the affected areas have to be involved to make sure it doesn’t happen.
Eventually, the final plan for the Beltline corridor will be announced, bids will be let, contracts awarded and then the reconstruction will
commence probably around 2025.
Now these kinds of projects are not cheap and create or retain family supporting jobs, whether they are as laborers or in the skilled trades or
as equipment operators. And by my calculation, these jobs are going to be around well into the 2030s fueled just by the projects that have
already been approved or are under consideration. And who knows what other kinds of projects will be taken up after that. Americans’ love
affair with automobiles will not go away anytime soon and there will be even more cars on the road in the years ahead.
Now is the time for people, especially people of color and women, to begin to prepare for these jobs. As the Baby Boomers continue to retire,
these jobs will become more and more available. And people need advanced training before they can compete for these jobs. A job at
McDonald’s? You can pretty much decide tomorrow that you want to work there and you can get a job as a wait person. A job as a heavy-
equipment operator? That takes 4-6 years of education and training to qualify for. What is the reward for taking those 4-6 years to prepare? The
wages will be 2-3 times the amount you earn at McDonald’s and the fringe benefits are pretty decent. That translates to $17,000 to $20,000
more in your pocket per year. That is some serious cash and these jobs will be there.
So I urge young people especially to take note and prepare. I am all about people going to college. Burt for those who aren’t going that route,
these road construction jobs pay a whole lot better than slinging burgers on a grill. Those who prepare for the future will benefit. The time to
decide is now!