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Wisconsin to receive only part of money for I-94 work

Scott Bauer
Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The state of Wisconsin will be receiving $86 million less than it had requested from the federal government for an expansion and other work to Interstate 94 south of Milwaukee.

Yet, despite that seeming setback, Gov. Scott Walker said on Wednesday the work will still be completed by 2021, as planned.

The state has an aggressive schedule for 36 miles of I-94 running from Milwaukee south to the Illinois border. That stretch lies just west of Mount Pleasant, where Foxconn Technology Group plans to build a $10 billion manufacturing campus. The liquid-crystal-display factory the company wants to operate there is expected to greatly increase the number of vehicles using nearby roads.

The state applied to the U.S. Department of Transportation in October for a $246 million Infrastructure for Rebuilding America grant. If awarded, the money would have been enough to pay for half of the I-94 project’s remaining cost. Walker and Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin announced on Wednesday that Wisconsin had received $160 million, only 65 percent of what it had sought but still the largest award it had ever got and the second largest given to any state in this round.

Walker called it “great news for the state of Wisconsin.”

His office said the money will allow for all lanes of traffic on the heavily traveled I-94 north-south corridor to be open to traffic by Memorial Day of 2020 and for the project to be completed by 2021.

Tom Evenson, a spokesman for Walker, said the $86 million difference between what was requested and what was received will be made up from cash balances from transportation-revenue bonds.

“No projects anywhere else around the state are being diverted to complete I-94,” Evenson said.

Patrick Goss, executive director of the Wisconsin Transportation Builders Association, said he believes that, even with the state receiving less money than it had sought, the project would remain on schedule.

“If they’re saying they’ve got the money, my members will get the work done,” Goss said.

Plans for I-94 call for adding an extra lane to both sides of the north-south section of the interstate, which goes through Kenosha, Racine and Milwaukee counties. The state is eager to complete the work as Foxconn begins building its campus, where as many 13,000 people could eventually work.

In its application for the federal grant, the state stressed the economic benefits that would from improving traffic flow near the Foxconn site.

“This investment will ensure that the I-94 freeway can continue to play a vital role in helping manufacturers and small businesses transport their products to the markets they serve, connecting workers to job opportunities and strengthening our Made in Wisconsin economy,” Baldwin said in a statement announcing the grant.

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