State provides grants to fund variety of transportation projects
Over 150 transportation projects across the state will be supported by $75 million worth of grants to help local communities.Image By: Kalli Anderson
Gov. Tony Evers announced last Wednesday the government would allocate almost $75 million worth of grants to finance over 150 transportation projects statewide.
The grants come from the Multimodal Local Supplement award program — a one-time program included in last year’s state budget to provide additional funding for transportation and help meet the needs of local communities.
Towns, municipalities and counties requested funding for about 1,600 projects. In the end, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation agreed to provide grants to support 152 transportation projects and initiatives.
“Think about tourism or farmers getting their products from point A to point B,” Evers said at a news conference at the Howard-Suamico School District headquarters in Brown County. “Folks getting to and from work, to school and our state economy absolutely depends on having good roads, safe bridges and great highways.”
Local funding for projects and programs will go to 66 of the state’s 72 counties.
No funding was provided in Adams, Crawford, Florence, Iron, Menominee and Oneida counties — most of which are in northern Wisconsin.
Communities in Dane County brought in the most money and received almost $3.6 million for six projects. Communities in six other counties — Fond du Lac, Jefferson, Marathon, Portage, Rock and Washington — each received between $2 million and $2.6 million.
Twenty-eight projects received $1 million grants — the largest amount announced — which were apportioned to 25 counties. Dane County received three $1 million grants and Washington County received two.
According to Milwaukee County Transit System Spokeswoman Kristina Hoffman, Milwaukee County will use its $1 million grant to purchase new buses in 2022 or 2023.
Debby Jackson, executive director of the Transportation Development Association praised officials for providing the grants but said the situation shows a more sustainable funding plan is necessary for the state's growing economy and transportation infrastructure.
“After decades of disinvestment, communities face a backlog of projects vital to their local economies and few options to fund them,” Jackson said in her statement. “Unfortunately, more than 1,400 local projects are left with an uncertain path forward.”
The Republican lawmakers' 2019 budget originally included $90 million for local road projects, but Evers used his veto power to reduce the amount to $75 million and open it to other types of transportation projects.
While Wisconsin plans to spend $7 billion on transportation initiatives over the next two years, the additional funds will be taken out of the state’s main accounts that finances other sectors such as health care programs and schools, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
Rep. Mark Born, R-Beaver Dam, criticized Evers for the veto and his allocation of the remaining money.
“He cut $15 million in funding Republicans set aside for fixing local roads,” Born tweeted. “Now he is robbing millions more from your road repairs to fund bike paths and buses in Milwaukee.”
Born’s hometown of Beaver Dam will receive $500,000 for a road project including upgrades for bicycles and pedestrians. While he did not indicate whether he opposed that project or not, his frustration appeared to be aimed at the Ozaukee Interurban Trail which will be granted $668,000, according to the Journal Sentinel.
Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh, said the DOT should exercise greater authority in deciding where funds should be placed.
“We know repeatedly that young people want quality-of-life initiatives, support increased infrastructure in things like bike lanes, in public transportation,” Hintz said. “So I think [the] DOT deserves the discretion to be able to allocate based on the infrastructure needs that are out there.”
Evers awarded $73.2 total in grants. The remaining $1.8 million will be used for a lift mechanism at the Veterans Memorial Bridge in Kaukauna.Subscribe to The Daily Cardinal Newsletter