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Industry waiting on road budget fallout

No gas tax increase could stymie some projects

Road builders’ representatives are hoping that a transportation budget request coming this September will galvanize lawmakers into raising additional money for highways by making them aware of the consequences of doing nothing.

Gov. Scott Walker put his name to a letter last month calling on the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to place a priority on local roads and maintenance and “minimize” spending on southeast mega projects in the state’s next budget. The governor also repeated his previous argument that any increase in the state’s gas tax could undercut the state’s economy.

Kevin Traas, director of transportation policy and finance for the Wisconsin Transportation Builders Association, said the lawmakers who are going to vote on the state’s next budget need to be made aware of the likely fallout from the governor’s call for no increases in transportation revenue.

“We are waiting for the DOT’s proposal like everyone else,” Traas said. “We are hoping the proposal sheds some light on the consequences of what a no-revenue-increase budget means.”

Michael Pyritz, communications manager for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s southeast projects, confirmed Monday that the governor’s call to minimize spending on megaprojects in the state’s southeast region could affect plans for several projects now in the hopper.

Among them are proposal to rebuild a section of Interstate 94 running east and west between 16th and 70th streets, to finish the ongoing reconstruction of the north-south running part of I-94 between Milwaukee and the Illinois state line, and to wrap up the final phase of the ongoing reconstruction of the Zoo Interchange reconstruction by 2020. Other work that could be affected — some of which is in fairly early stages of planning — includes proposed reconstructions of Interstate 43 north of Milwaukee and Interstate 894 between the Zoo and Mitchell interchanges.

Traas noted that WisDOT also has plans for various out-state projects on the horizon. They include proposals to rebuild Madison’s Beltline and the section of interstates 39 and 90 running north of Madison to the Wisconsin Dells

Pyritz said it’s not uncommon for WisDOT officials to change their plans in response to budget allocations.

“It’s happened in the past and it will happen in the future,” he said.

The governor’s letter calls on WisDOT to release its budget proposal on Sept. 15.

About Dan Shaw, dan.shaw@dailyreporter.com

Dan Shaw is the associate editor at The Daily Reporter. He can be reached at dan.shaw@dailyreporter.com or at 414-225-1807.

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