The Joint Committee on Finance (JFC) has approved a motion to release $350 million in bonding for transportation projects. The motion will allow $200 million in bonding for 2015-2016, and $150 million in 2016-2017.
The Department of Transportation (DOT) requested $200 million on October 19, which would require JFC to approve the request with no JFC member objections. However, in a letter to DOT Secretary Mark Gottlieb, JFC Chair Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) announced multiple objections have been raised. Therefore a formal vote had to be held.
In a motion that passed 10-6, all Senate Republicans voted no, while all Democrats and Assembly Republicans voted yes.
The recently-enacted biennial state budget bill reduced the level of bonding from Governor Walker’s recommended $1.3 billion in new bonding to $500 million, and allows for an additional $350 million in general obligation bonds to be issued upon approval by JFC. This $350 million in contingent bonding may be used for either major highway development or state highway rehabilitation projects.
When DOT requested the money to be released, they stated the following projects would be delayed at least two years due to lack of available funding, if the motion did not pass:
- I-39/90 project from Madison to the Wisconsin-Illinois state line;
- U.S. Highway 10/441 project in the Fox River Valley;
- U.S. Highway 151/Verona Road Interchange project on Madison’s west side, the largest and longest urban road construction in the state;
- Wisconsin Highway 23 project between Fond du Lac and Plymouth; and
- Wisconsin Highway 15 project near New London.
Governor Walker called upon the legislature to provide $125 million to help get these five projects back on track and to provide $75 million in additional funding for the State Highway Improvement Program.
The Transportation Development Association recently released a study by the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater which argued that delaying these projects would hurt area businesses and undermine economic development in the project areas.