by Senator Howard Marklein
January 17, 2020
Local, Rural Road Funding Should Be Used to Fix Local, Rural Roads
Last summer, I worked very hard to designate funds in the state budget for local, rural roads. I originally sought $133 million, which was then compromised to $90 million to be divided among towns, counties, cities and villages for local road maintenance and repairs. This is the package the legislature passed in our state budget.
Governor Tony Evers vetoed $15 million off of these dollars and further vetoed all of the language that directed the funding to local roads. Fortunately, the Department of Transportation (DOT) heard our pleas and approved a plan that mostly restored our original intent for the remaining $75 million in funding. The funding will be distributed to cities/villages: $19,039,500; counties: $26,669,333; and towns: $29,291,167. The Kaukauna lift bridge was also given $2.2 million from these funds.
From the beginning, we sought to make a strong, immediate, meaningful investment into the maintenance and repair of local roads throughout our communities. However, the Governor’s veto reduced the funding and created eligibility for projects that include buses, trains, harbors, bike paths and other non-road transportation projects. The Governor named this grant program the Multimodal Local Supplement (MLS).
The application process for the MLS closed on December 6, 2019. I immediately requested copies of all of the applications so that I could determine the breadth of needs and requests that were competing for these dollars. About one month later, I received the data. In total, the DOT has received 1,596 applications worth $1.47 billion in funding.
The communities of the 17th Senate District submitted 165 or 10% of the applications, worth $111,222,511 or 7.6% of the total funding requested. The applications will be evaluated in three different groups: cities/villages, towns and counties.
There are 45 applications from cities and villages from the 17th Senate District competing against 461 total applications. There are 12 applications from counties competing against 105 total county applications. There are 108 applications from towns competing against 1,030 total applications from towns.
From here, three committees, made up of local transportation professionals will evaluate the applications in each category and make recommendations to DOT Secretary-Designee Craig Thompson. I have been told that the Secretary-Designee will announce his decisions toward the end of February.
As your State Senator, I will be monitoring this process and advocating for the projects in rural Wisconsin that will improve local, rural roads. Our intention for these funds was to fix and maintain roads. We did not intend for these funds to be used for buses, trains and bike paths. The numbers I reported to you demonstrate that there is a significant need for funding for roads. I strongly believe that these funds should be used for roads and nothing else.
While our local towns will not be paying for Milwaukee’s trolley or buses in bigger cities, these types of projects may be funded through allocations to counties, cities and villages. A couple of our rural communities requested funds for bike paths and they will be evaluated against all of the other worthy projects on the list. However, I will be taking a closer look at all of the other applications statewide to better understand all of the requests. I will watch the city, village and county portions closely to ensure that rural cities, villages and counties do not lose out to their urban counterparts.
The bottom-line is that we need to fix our roads now! This was the entire intent for these dollars all along. I will keep you posted on my analysis of the applications and the progress of the grant process.
For more information and to connect with me, visit my website
http://legis.wisconsin.gov/senate/17/marklein and subscribe to my weekly E-Update by sending an email to Sen.Marklein@legis.wisconsin.gov. Do not hesitate to call 800-978-8008 if you have input, ideas or need assistance with any state-related matters.