The cluelessness driving the transportation debate is illustrated by a Journal Sentinel story posted last night.

The lead paragraph warns, “The state could lose federal approval for rebuilding the east-west section of I-94 in Milwaukee if lawmakers don’t invest in the project, a top state senator warned Monday.”

As the saying goes, no kidding Dick Tracy.

The Journal Sentinel reports that “under [Governor Scott] Walker’s latest plan work on the east-west section of I-94 would not be approved (emphasis added).” The story continues, “That has sparked [the senator’s] concerns that the federal government could pull its approval for the project…”

While presented as breaking news, it is in fact six months old. Governor Walker’s transportation budget introduced early this year pulled the plug on the East-West project. In so doing the governor reneged on a written and supposedly binding commitment to the feds a year ago that he would go ahead with the project.

So, rather than being a new development, federal support has been in clear jeopardy for at least six months. It was brought back to life last week in the Senate GOP road plan, the one Walker ditched a day later. In other words, the governor’s “latest plan” put the East-West project back in jeopardy.

Where was the “top state senator” when Walker’s budget six months ago reneged on his commitment to the East-West freeway? Why was this context not provided in last night’s story? The answers to such questions are a reminder that much of what you read on the transportation impasse barely skims the surface of the story.

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