State lawmakers have largely signed off on the Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s plans for spending $282.9 million the state is due from the infrastructure bill adopted by Congress last year.
In a bipartisan vote, the state’s Joint Committee on Finance took the last step needed before WisDOT could begin spending the money. Wisconsin’s share of the infrastructure bill will amount to a 35% increase in federal support above the $800 million the state had expected to receive for its latest biennial budget. Of the additional money, WisDOT plans to direct $124 million to state highway rehabilitation, $83 million to local transportation projects, $61 million to local bridges and $10 million to bike and pedestrian trails and other recreational projects.
“I am grateful to the committee members for approving the plan and to our local partners – the towns, municipalities and counties – for helping us create a plan to ensure this federal funding is efficiently deployed to projects in communities throughout the state,” WisDOT Secretary Craig Thompson said in a statement Wednesday.
WisDOT began working last fall with groups representing Wisconsin towns, counties and municipalities to help ensure they could hit a federal deadline, in September, for funding applications. Although the state’s Joint Finance Committee largely went along with WisDOT’s plans, it altered one provision that would have set aside $4.3 million to relieve congestion and improve air quality. Republicans removed language that would have directed money to projects for bicycle commuters, leaving funding only for projects that promise to reduce congestion by taking steps such as improving the timing of traffic lights.
In a party-line vote, the committee rejected a motion that would have had WisDOT’s spending plan adopted as initially written. The committee then approved various GOP-proposed modifications in a 14-1 vote. The sole objection came from Rep. Evan Goyke, D-Milwaukee, who said he thought it a “mistake” to exclude money for trail projects.
Rep. Mark Born, R-Beaver Dam and co-chair of the committee, said Republicans wanted to direct more money to road projects. In general, though, Born said WisDOT’s plans for spending the federal money would lead to a “good investment” in the state’s infrastructure.
“The priority investment in our infrastructure is in our roads,” Born said. “When we have an opportunity to make sure we’re focusing as much as we can, maximizing that investment in our infrastructure, in our roads, that’s what we’re doing here.” Follow @natebeck9