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Highway Projects Delayed Due to Lack of Funds
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation has announced the two-year delay of five Major Highway Program projects. However, it is probably more accurate to say the completion dates are simply uncertain.
The delay of two years assumes the legislature will add money to the program in the future. If they don’t, the delays will be longer.
The budget signed earlier this year includes $350 million in contingency bonding that could be used to shorten the length of the delays. However, WisDOT hasn't put in a request to use the additional bonding as Senate Republicans have expressed reluctance to release it even if asked.
If the contingency bonding was utilized, the amount of bonding in the current biennium would still be lower than last biennium and well below the governor’s request.
Delaying these projects will have far reaching economic and safety implications. And quite simply the projects will cost more in the future due to construction inflation.
Below are the affected projects:
- I-39/90 – Expand from four lanes to six from the Illinois state line to Madison. $1.2 billion project began this year and was to be finished in 2021. New completion date 2023 or beyond.
- Verona Road –Reconstruct of the Verona Road Interchange on Madison's Beltline and the surrounding area and widening of Verona Road. $251 million project, begun in 2013. Phase one will be completed in 2016. Phase two completion date moved from 2019 until at least 2021.
- US 10/Wis 441 –reconstruct and expand approximately 6 miles of US 10 / WIS 441 from 4 lanes to 6 lanes and reconstruct five interchanges and the Roland Kampo Bridge. $482 million project’s new completion date is at least 2021, not 2019.
- Highway 15 – Expand 11 miles of WIS 15 to a 4-lane divided highway. $148 million project delayed until at least 2021.
- Highway 23 – The $151 million has already been put on hold because of litigation by environmentalists. When that hurdle is cleared, the project faces a delay and a tentative completion date of 2020.
It should be noted that while there have been no official announcements to date, the Rehabilitation Program, with reduced funding in this biennium, will also see project delays.
Select Media Coverage of the Delays
WBAY.com: "Major Fox Valley road project delayed"
Appleton Post Crescent: "Wisconsin delays work on major road projects"
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "DOT puts the brakes on 5 major highway projects in budget crunch"
Wisconsin Radio Network: "Dems call for attention to transportation funding in Wisconsin"
Channel 3000: "Transportation budget cuts delay interstate expansion 2 years"
Beloit Daily News Editorial: "Sustainable plans to pay for roads"
Beloit Daily News: "2-year delay hits project on I-90/39"
Janesville Gazette Editorial: "Freeway delay disgusting, dangerous"
Janesville Gazette: "DOT posts delayed timeline on Interstate 90/39 expansion project"
Just Fix It, A Statewide Engagement Effort, Announced
Wisconsin has had blue ribbon commission reports and studies that have clearly documented the need to increase state and local transportation investment simply to maintain the current level of service. Yet, nothing has been done.
U.S. DOT Fact Sheets released in July of 2015 show Wisconsin road conditions rank the third worst in the nation – 71% are in “mediocre to poor” condition.
Bus systems are struggling and road repair and town and county replacement schedules often exceed the average human life expectancy in 2015. And now communities and businesses can’t know when important road modernization projects will be completed as WisDOT announces delays due to uncertain funding.
Enough. Wisconsinites know what needs to be done. Some problems are truly perplexing to solve – like curing the common cold or finding a cure for cancer. Fixing Wisconsin’s state and local roads and transit systems is not one of those.
And this is the idea behind TDA’s joint outreach: Just Fix It.
TDA presented the general overview and timeline of the effort at its annual meeting earlier this month. TDA is joined in this effort by the Wisconsin Counties Association, the Wisconsin Towns Association, the League of Wisconsin Municipalities, CASE, the American Council of Engineering Companies of Wisconsin and others.
This outreach, which will kick off in earnest next year, will help local government leaders across Wisconsin engage with constituents and provide an opportunity to simply hold a mirror up to their communities to determine if people like what they see.
Studies and reports can document needs and provide analysis, but people need to see the examples, hear the stories and have the opportunity to participate. Otherwise, deteriorating transportation conditions is just another problem too big and too complicated to fix.
Stay tuned for more information early next year.
News Coverage of the Effort
La Crosse Tribune: “Counties to show off worst roads in grassroots campaign for funding”
WPR’s Central Time: “Worst roads In Wisconsin are target of 'Just Fix It' outreach campaign”
La Crosse Tribune Opinion: "Turn focus to state's crumbling roads"
Thanks Annual Meeting Sponsors
American Council of Engineering Companies of Wisconsin
International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 139
Mary Ellen O’Brien
Mead & Hunt, Inc.
Miller-Bradford & Risberg, Inc.
Short Elliott Hendrickson, Inc.
Wisconsin Asphalt Pavement Association
Wisconsin Concrete Pavement Association
Wisconsin County Highway Association
Wisconsin Laborers’ District Council
Wisconsin State Council of Carpenters
Wisconsin Transportation Builders Association
More Short-Term Extensions from Congress
Congress has made progress on clearing two pieces of must-pass legislation and with little time to spare. Both the current authorization for Federal Aviation Administration programs and funding for most government functions were set to expire today, September 30th.
The Senate has already passed a clean continuing resolution (CR) to fund the discretionary appropriations of the federal government through December 11, and the House is expected to follow today. The resignation of Speaker Boehner seems to have let the air out of the threat of a government shutdown over the vote for a clean CR. Outgoing Speaker Boehner announced a few days ago that he was willing to pass a clean CR, which would maintain funding for Planned Parenthood, with Democratic votes.
However, another showdown may be on the horizon. President Obama, backed by Senate Democrats, is still threatening to veto any full-year FY 2016 appropriations unless Congress also amends the Budget Control Act’s spending caps to allow tens of billions of dollars in additional spending. This course of action is unlikely to find favor with most House Republicans.
Yesterday, Congress approved a six-month extension of Federal Aviation Administration programs. The six-month authorization buys Congress time to hopefully negotiate a long-term FAA measure next year.
And as expected, Chairman Shuster has indicated that another short-term extension authorizing Highway Trust Fund programs will be necessary when the current extension expires October 29th.
Public Transit Keeps Wisconsin’s Economy Rolling
Calling all Wisconsin transit riders to show your support and have some fun while on the road. During the week of October 5-11, officially proclaimed Wisconsin Transit Week by the state’s governor, transit riders will be encouraged to tell their stories and share a selfie of the journey.
“People of all ages and demographics rely on our transit systems,” said Transportation Development Association of Wisconsin Executive Director Craig Thompson. “We see many younger people use transit when they don’t have – or want to own – a car. We see older individuals able to maintain an active lifestyle due to the accessibility of public transit in their communities. And, we see many workers who use transit to get to and from work each day. In many cases, the proximity of transit to an employer workplace is a draw for qualified workers and a way to retain a qualified workforce.”
Bus systems and other forms of public transit provide many benefits to people throughout Wisconsin. For instance:
Local governments and transit agencies are partnering with the Transportation Development Association to give the people of Wisconsin a voice and a chance to win. Each weekday, the best SELFIE ON THE BUS will win a prize. The winner will receive a $25 gift certificate from Amazon. To join the conversation on Twitter use #WITransit. Winning selfies will be posted at www.witransitweek.com.
- In Wisconsin, 48% of riders use public transit to get to work and another 23% for education.
- Public transportation provides an affordable, and for many, necessary alternative to driving allowing them get to work, access health care, do their shopping, and visit family and friends.
- By 2035, an estimated 20% of the population will be over 65 years old. Providing mobility options is critical for older Americans.
- Time on the bus can be used to read, work, or interact with others via social media or texting – things you should never do while driving.
Whether you are a user of public transit or not, take time during the week of October 5-11 to show your support for transit in Wisconsin by sending a short tweet with #WITransit.
Other Interesting News Coverage
Mlive.com, September 22, 2015 – “Road funding among 4 major issues Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder hopes to tackle by end of year”
KCBD.com, September 15, 2015– “Texas lawmakers propose constitutional amendment for transportation fund”
AnnistonStar.com, September 10, 2015 – “Gas tax increase gets nod from Alabama House committee”
WashingtonExaminer.com, September 9, 2015 – “Lawmaker: Get ready for another short-term highway patch”
TheHill.com, September 1, 2015 – “Poll: Most Americans back 10-cent gas tax hike”
Fond du Lac, September 2, 2015 – “Lawmakers criticize judge's Hwy. 23 decision”
AzCentral.com, August 26, 2015– “Phoenix voters pass Prop. 104 transit tax”
Calendar of Events
- Rebuild America's Infrastructure and Economy: League of Women Voters of Wisconsin and American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) – Wisconsin Section present four free public forums around the state, the two remaining:September 30th Madison, October 14th Eau Claire. All forums will take place 6-8 p.m. Click here for more information.
- Wisconsin Railroad Association's Freight Rail Day: Tuesday, October 20th in Madison. Register today.
- WisDOT Freight Rail Conference: Tuesday, November 17th. Register today.
- Midwest Transportation Workforce Summit: December 7th-8th. Click here for more information and to register.
- TDA Fly-in 2016: April 6th-7th
@TDAWisconsin, Now on Twitter
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