DOT Secretary: Change in bonding would delay Verona Road, I-90 projects

Verona Road construction officially delayed, DOT says

Wisconsin Department of Transportation Secretary Mark Gottlieb says the Verona Road project and Interstate 90 expansion project from Madison to Beloit would be delayed two years if lawmakers reduced the amount of bonding in the governor’s proposed two-year budget by $500 million.

Gov. Scott Walker’s budget would borrow $1.3 billion for transportation projects in the state rather than raise money through an increase in the gas tax or mileage fees. Republican lawmakers have made clear they are uncomfortable with the level of borrowing and have indicated they will change it.

In a DOT agency briefing Wednesday, Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, asked Gottlieb how many projects would be delayed if $500 million was cut from the bonding level. As part of a long list, Gottlieb said that the Verona Road and Interstate 39-90 projects in south-central Wisconsin would be delayed by two years.

“It should be clearly understood that if highway program bonding is reduced, without a corresponding increase in other transportation revenues, the result will be delays in current and future projects in all areas of the highway program,” Gottlieb said.

Gottlieb told the Joint Finance Committee on Wednesday that numerous other projects would also be affected. He said 444 miles would be taken out of the highway program, and 346 of those miles would be outside southeastern Wisconsin.

Nygren told News 3 he wasn’t comfortable with those outcomes.

“For my view I would like to see us come to a position where we have a solution about long term sustainability of the transportation fund,” Nygren said.

Lawmakers are considering a hike in the gas tax, which was originally proposed by the Department of Transportation in the budget they submitted to the Governor late last year. Gottlieb would not say whether he would continue to recommend that approach, but indicated Gov. Walker may be open to it if other changes were made in the budget.

“So is your understanding that if we raise the gas tax and got more revenue for you he would then wish to see us lower taxes a comparable amount in the budget?” asked Rep. Dean Knudson, R-Hudson.

“That is my understanding,” Gottlieb said.