Federal funds, bus rapid transit project help fuel Madison’s largest capital improvement budget in 2022

MADISON, Wis. — In the city’s largest capital improvement budget*, Madison mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway announced a $355 million plan for 2022 that highlighted affordable housing, small business improvements, sustainability, and one of her highest priority projects: bus rapid transit.

Thanks to federal money for BRT as well pandemic COVID-19 aid, the plan more than doubles the current year’s $166 million plan–a budget hit hard by the pandemic and lower than 2020’s $173 million capital budget.

The capital improvement budget represents one of the city’s two key budgets, with the operational budget set to be finalized in October, prior to council approval.

“This budget is one part of making the Madison we imagine come true: a city that is innovative, inclusive, and thriving,” Rhodes-Conway said. “Our economy continues to recover, but many of our residents continue to be impacted by the pandemic’s affects on their work, their housing, and their economic security.”

Bus rapid transit fuels largest budget share

The increase is largely fueled by the first $166 million phase of the new bus rapid transit system, currently set to go operational in 2024 and using significant funding from the federal government, with $142 million of that included in next year’s capital budget. Included in the five-year plan announced today is a new $4 million investment in 2023 for a North-South BRT line, adding to an East-West line set to go under construction soon.

Other transportation-related projects also include:

  • Reconstruction of Atwood and University Avenues
  • Reconstruction of John Nolen Drive bridges
  • Proposed return of Amtrak to Madison

Affordable housing, small business opportunities, sustainability

Other significant parts of the budget include a $42 million investment to increase affordable housing options in Madison, and another $20 million for consumer lender programs to help people become home owners.

Growth to the Small Business Equity and Recovery program, including the Commercial Building Ownership program, will amount to $500,000 per year over the next five years to support women, people of color, and other underrepresented entrepreneurs, the city said.

Sustainability efforts form a significant part of the budget, including:

  • Electric vehicles for Public Works Department
  • Conversion of all city street lights to LEDs
  • Increased funding to MadiSUN solar program

The next six years will invest $314.3 million in environmental and sustainable projects and programs, representing 26% of the city’s capital improvement plan.

Taxpayer increases

The budget includes $22 million more of borrowing than the 2021 capital budget, for a total of $142 million. City finance director David Schmiedicke says that will primarily be repaid by property tax and other city sources, built into the operating budget.

Next year’s budget will also be the first to provide services to the town of Madison, which will be fully absorbed into the city of Madison by October 2022.

*While past capital budgets reflected amounts higher than $355 million, the city’s finance director noted that a change in 2020 means budgets now only reflected new projects, with carryforward appropriations shown in a separate schedule. Past budgets combined those two items.