By Joe Bachman
MADISON — Last week it was announced that approximately $70-90 million dollars could be shifted away from state road projects and towards the $10 billion dollar Foxconn Technology Plant — a move that may see project delays for current and future Wisconsin Rapids street projects.
According to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, while the plant is set to create 13,000 jobs from the production of liquid-crustal display screens, it could come at a cost for Wisconsin’s roads. In total, the move in funding could leave road funding for the Department of Transportation short by over $800 million of the $2.4 billion dollars needed to maintain Wisconsin’s roads over the next decade.
Mayor Zach Vruwink chimed in on how this affects the Wisconsin Rapids area.
“It’s being transferred out of the Highway Rehabilitation Fund, and that funds connecting highways and projects in local communities around the state,” said Vruwink. “…Any depletion of resources that may otherwise go to our community is a major concern because the legislature and governor never agreed to any new revenue.”
As of the time of this publication, state government officials have not identified any new sources of revenue for putting the money back into the fund. According to Vruwink, this may lead to a negative impact on the community.
“Don’t rob the fund; raise new revenue, and then it won’t be an issue.”
One project impacted by the cuts would be the one proposed to see major improvements to the Wis. 54/73 and Gaynor Ave. roundabout, ironically right outside of the Wisconsin State offices. These proposed improvements that would fix much needed safety concerns are:
- Partial reconstruction/widening of WIS 54/73 to provide two westbound/southbound lanes from the Gaynor Avenue roundabout to Woodbine Street
- Traffic signal timing upgrades at WIS 13/54/73 to optimize traffic movements through the intersection
- Four driveways will be removed from WIS 54/73 and relocated
- Pavement marking and signing improvements along WIS 54/73 between Gaynor Avenue and Woodbine Street to improve traffic movements entering the 17th/Gaynor Avenue roundabout
“They essentially told us that the project has been removed from the six-year plan, and therefore there is no funding assigned to that project,” said Vruwink. “The city has made investments in that project to acquire driveway access — so it was quite frustrating because we had gone down that path, spent money, and now we’re told that the state portion of the project will not occur unless a funding source is identified.”
So what can residents do? A tried and true practice — contact your legislators.
“I think it’s as simple as reaching out to the governor’s office and local representatives at the state level that can continue to push for a sustainable transportation fund.”
You can contact your local representatives at the following email addresses and numbers:
Rep. Scott Krug (R-Rome) Rep.Krug@legis.wisconsin.gov (608) 266-0215
Rep. Patrick Testin (R-Stevens Point) Sen.Testin@legis.wi.gov (608) 266-3123
Gov. Scott Walker https://walker.wi.gov/contact/contact-form