Wisconsin Public Radio

Legislative Committee Approves Highway Funding

“The roads in Illinois are much better,” Republican Sen Alberta Darling charges.

By , Wisconsin Public Radio - Jun 15th, 2018 11:35 am
I-94 Construction.

I-94 Construction in 2015.

The Legislature’s budget committee has approved splitting $67 million in new federal transportation money between a stretch of interstate near the site of Wisconsin’s Foxconn plant and other Wisconsin bridges and highways.

Under the plan approved Thursday, the state Department of Transportation will spend about $22 million of the new federal funding on the reconstruction of I-94 North-South in Kenosha, Racine and Milwaukee counties.

A state fund for highway and local bridge improvements would get about $38.6 million, while another $6.7 million would go to other state highway projects.

Construction on the I-94 expansion, which began in 2009, involves rebuilding existing lanes and adding a fourth lane in each direction from Milwaukee County to the Illinois state line.

“The roads in Illinois are much better than I-94 going in and out of Wisconsin, so this is a road in need of being finished,” said state Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, the co-chair of the Legislature’s budget committee.

The I-94 funding approved by GOP lawmakers was about $15 million less than Gov. Scott Walker wanted to spend.

Republicans increased state borrowing by $252 million last year as part of the Foxconn deal Walker signed into law last year. This extra $22 million would be on top of that.

The funding comes at a time when Republicans who run state government have been unable to agree on how, or even whether, to increase funding for other road projects across the state.

“We need to be fixing our roads first, not directing more money to fund Foxconn,” said state Rep. Katrina Shankland, D-Stevens Point.

Democrats proposed spending all of the additional I-94 funding on resurfacing and rebuilding local roads instead.

Sen. Howard Marklein, R-Spring Green, supported the Democratic plan, which otherwise failed on a party-line vote. Marklein is up for re-election in November in a district that’s among the state’s most competitive.

The GOP plan passed the committee on a 10-5 vote, with Marklein joining Democrats to vote against.

Darling said it was important to finish I-94 because of what it means to Wisconsin’s economy, especially its tourism industry.

“I-94 North-South is a major highway in and out of Wisconsin,” Darling said. “This is not the Foxconn highway.”

In addition to the funding approved Thursday, Walker recently announced the state had won an additional $160 million in federal highway money for I-94 North-South.

The nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau said the project would still need additional state funding to be completed by 2021, the year discussed when the Foxconn bill was passed.

Listen to the WPR story here.

Legislature’s Budget Committee Approves Federal Funding For I-94, Local Roads was originally published by Wisconsin Public Radio.

5 thoughts on “Legislative Committee Approves Highway Funding”

  1. Dumbledore says:

    While I firmly support the rebuilding of I-94 from Kenosha to Milwaukee, this is ironic for two reasons:

    1. WisDOT was on a path to have the entire highway completed by 2016 at what surely would have been a lower cost just by reason of inflation alone until Scott Walker – midway through his first term – pulled the plug on the vast majority of the project.

    2. Walker didn’t want to accept high-speed rail project funding back in 2010 because it would (correctly) require annual operating support. But adding an additional two lanes to a six-lane freeway increases the annual operating costs for activities such as plowing, striping and pothole patching.

    Finally, it is worth noting that NONE of the funding boosts in this action were the result of any leadership or vision on behalf of Wisconsin. The extra $67 million is all from additional federal formula funds from a federal Highway Trust Fund that is growing more dependent on non-highway revenue sources (about 33% currently). The extra $160 million is from federal discretionary funds and will be matched by Wisconsin borrowing. In other words, nothing in this latest package is sustainable. It’s like relying on Christmas money from Grandma to support your day-to-day needs.

  2. michael says:

    The value of a road to a city is: the economic value created MINUS the cost to build, the opportunity cost of the land it’s on, and the degradation of the value of the surrounding property from the nuisance – noise, pollution, basement flooding from the run off, traffic, etc. City of Milwaukee is deeply negative on state roads. They create some value, but we bear nearly all the costs in terms of the collateral damage – especially the interstates. But, the state act like it’s doing us a favor. False! The beneficiary of these interstates is the surrounding counties & rest of the state.

    Not only do Milwaukee drivers pay the same gas tax and get less back in return than anywhere in the state, the poorly maintained state roads that do we have suck the vitality out of our city. What they should be doing is fixing State Route 32/S. 1st street, which is a pothole-filled pedestrian death trap. Same with state route 100/Capitol – worst death trap in the state. State route 175/Lisbon – total drag strip. WisDOT is an embarrassment.

  3. Troll says:

    Putting Democrats in charge would lead to worse roads and more trolleys. Besides Illinois resident pay a lot more in transportation then Wisconsinites they should have better roads. Video cameras everywhere. Minorities receive more speeding and traffic tickets in Illinois.

  4. Jake formerly of the LP says:

    Try again, you prideless, needy Troll. Dems just understand that in order to fix the roads and have alternative firms of transportation, IT COSTS MONEY. Dumbledore is correct, this extra money is one-time pork that does nothing to solve our chronic and long-term road funding deficit.

    And Dems know there are more parts to the state than just the Foxconn-sin region. Maybe they should run things for a while, to,get things back in balance.

  5. steve says:

    Several stretches of I 43 north of Milwaukee County are so bad, I don’t believe they merit a
    70 mph speed limit, or even 65mph. Also true for parts of I 41 south of Fond du Lac. People who drive should be the
    ones to pay. Raise the gas tax! Utah taxes 30cents per gallon, having raised it recently, and they re a “red” state.

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