Convenience might not be a strong enough reason to persuade lawmakers to add a Milton interchange to the estimated $1.02 billion Interstate 39/90 expansion.
Still, state Rep. Kim Hixson, D-Whitewater, said he is lobbying for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to study a possible interchange at I-39/90 and County Road M near Milton. County Road M now crosses over the interstate, and, Hixson said, the overpass likely will have to be replaced during the expansion project.
“It seems like it would be a good time to build some on and offramps when the expansion happens,” he said. “Some community members have contacted me and said they need the interchange in Milton.”
Milton Mayor Tom Chesmore said an interchange is unnecessary.
“I’d like to see it, and I think it would be good for Milton,” he said. “But in reality, I don’t know where the state would find the money to do it. Is this going to break Milton if it doesn’t happen? No.
“We’ll worry about an interchange when it’s absolutely needed.”
If other Milton leaders echo Chesmore, Hixson said, he will back off the idea. He said it makes sense to ask now while the state is aiming for a 2015 start date on the interstate expansion.
“There’s certainly a process you have to go through,” he said. “Personally, I think it’s a good idea. But in the end, the experts make those decisions.”
WisDOT did not consider a Milton interchange in its recently completed environmental impact statement for the expansion, said Larry Barta, WisDOT project manager. Barta declined to speculate on what an additional study would cost or how much an interchange project would add to the expansion’s price tag.
State Rep. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, said he does not understand why an interchange would be necessary. He said interstate travelers have exits in Janesville and Newville to access Milton.
“I’m sure there are a number of large communities that would love an interchange,” he said. “But we’re not talking about a small amount of money to do this kind of project. We’d have to buy land, and I just don’t see it as a priority in the times we’re in.”
Nass said roads and bridges throughout the state need upgrades before a convenience project is added to I-39/90.
“The state time and again has not set its priorities right,” he said. “If a bill calling for money for this project comes out in the next session, it will absolutely be another case of mismanaged priorities.”[polldaddy poll=”3350101″]