Home / Government / Lawmaker pushes for I-39/90 project money (UPDATE)

Lawmaker pushes for I-39/90 project money (UPDATE)

(Map by Rick Benedict/The Daily Reporter)

(Map by Rick Benedict/The Daily Reporter)

By Darryl Enriquez

State Assembly Speaker Mike Sheridan, D-Janesville, said he wants money for the planned $1.02 billion expansion of Interstate 39/90 from the Illinois border to Madison approved before Gov. Jim Doyle leaves office this fall.

If the money isn’t approved, Sheridan said he would introduce a bill in the Legislature during its next session to release financing for the project.

“I certainly encourage confirmation by the governor,” Sheridan said.

He said getting the project approved through Doyle’s office could be easier than having to go through the Legislature.

Money is set aside to widen I-39/90 from four to six lanes and to rebuild 11 interchanges on the 45.5-mile stretch of freeway, Wisconsin Department of Transportation Secretary Frank Busalacchi said.

Doyle and Busalacchi have expressed support for the project. Construction could begin as soon as 2015 and take up to five years to complete, Busalacchi said.

The project must gain approvals from federal and state agencies before money can be released.

Busalacchi said his agency’s environmental statement on the project was sent to the Federal Highway Administration for approval and he expects the approval within 30 days. He said he expects the federal government to pay for 40 to 50 percent of the project. Busalacchi and Sheridan announced the quest for federal approval and gave details of the I-39/90 project Wednesday in Janesville.

Once the environmental statement gains the Federal Highway Administration’s approval, Doyle could appoint and convene a Transportation Planning Commission to review the project and decide on the release of money.

The commission approves highway projects costing more than $5 million. It comprises the governor, 10 lawmakers, three public members and the WisDOT secretary as a nonvoting member.

Doyle’s office could not be reached for comment.

“I’m actually hoping that the TPC meets,” Sheridan said. “This is an important project that needs to get done.”

Sheridan said he has talked with Doyle about the project.

“It’s really up to him if he wants to do it before he leaves office,” Sheridan said.

Kevin Traas, executive director of transportation policy and finance for the Wisconsin Transportation Builders Association, said the I-39/90 expansion is needed as a business link through central Wisconsin.

The state appropriated $352 million for highway projects outside southeast Wisconsin in 2010 and $367 million for next year.

Projects in southeast Wisconsin have a separate budget.

If the state continues that trend, it should appropriate at least $367 million each for fiscal years 2012 and 2013 to complete current projects and provide money for the I-39/90 project, Traas said.

The sooner the freeway expansion begins, the quicker the economy will recover in Janesville, said Dan Cunningham, vice president of Forward Janesville Inc., a nonprofit economic development group.

Companies decide whether they will expand or relocate based on the quality and availability of roads, he said.

“We constantly hear that quality transportation lines are vital to the local and regional economies,” Cunningham said.

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