Verona Road project moves ahead under Walker’s budget proposal

Verona Road project moves ahead under Walker’s budget proposal

Transportation was another hot topic in Gov. Scott Walker’s 2017-2019 budget proposal. He plans to spend nearly $670 million to keep current projects on track like the Verona Road project.

The project was almost frozen because of budget issues, but now under Walker’s proposal once the ground thaws, construction will start and that’s music to the ears of local business owners.

Members of the Verona Road Business Coalition met Wednesday to discuss how to make sure their businesses stay populated with people rather than orange cones.

“There’s about 120 to 140 businesses that are potentially impacted,” said Toni Prestigiacomo, the co-chair of the Verona Road Business Coalition.

One of those people is Prestigiacomo, whose parents own Fitchburg’s Liquor Town just a stone’s throw away from Verona Road.

“It’s very important to my family because it is my parent’s retirement,” Presitgiacomo said.

The 7-year-long project has already contributed to the closure of some local stores and there were talks of delaying completion until 2022 because of higher than expected revenues.

“The uncertainty is almost worse than having to go through it, because once you’re in a position where there is so much uncertainty businesses don’t know whether to expand, whether to contract,” Prestigiacomo said.

Now, the project and Interstate 39/90 from the state line to Madison are back on track. Under Walker’s proposal, money from the petroleum inspection fee fund will move to the transportation fund, he also plans to borrow an additional $500 million.

“We’ve increased bonding without increasing revenues, and so that’s kind of increasing your credit card bill without increasing your income,” Craig Thompson, of the Transportation Development Association, said.

The project is now scheduled to finish by 2020. Some uncertainty does remain as the budget needs to go through a number of reviews, but one thing is certain — Prestigiacomo wants people to shop.

“Don’t give up on them. Support them during the construction,” she said.

Under Walker’s proposal, some other major projects will be put on hold, many that are in the south east part of the state, including parts of I-94.