Wednesday, September 3, 2008

How about a local share for the I-94 and the Zoo Interchange projects?

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation has irritated Waukesha County officials by insisting the county go halvesies on the projected $50 million cost of a bypass around the city, according to the JS.

Waukesha County officials object, and so much want to stay on the highway welfare rolls and contribute just 10% that they are completely dropping their bypass funding from the county's long-range capital plan.

The road project, highly desirable to the county as a supremely-discounted bargain, is completely undesirable when Waukesha must pay just half the actual cost. Still a bargain, but not quite what county officials had in mind.

What other highway projects would lose their luster if local units of government had to pay? Think Kenosha County would be so eager to destroy wetlands for I-94 interchange reconstruction if Kenosha County residents had to pick up half the cost? Do you think Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker would push freeways over transit if half the cost of rebuilding North-South I-94 in Milwaukee County appeared on county property tax bills?

Milwaukee Ald. Robert Bauman has long advocated that local governments share in the cost of highway projects now funded by the state. The Waukesha bypass reaction shows he's on to something. Kudos to WisDOT for insisting on a significant cost-share. Now the agency should expand that idea to other highway projects.

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