New program makes $75 million available for local roads

Published: Jul. 18, 2019 at 3:18 PM CDT
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The Republican leader of the Wisconsin state Senate is calling for a veto override after Gov. Tony Evers' administration said Milwaukee's street car could compete for $75 million in grant money.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald called for the veto override on Thursday. His call came shortly after Transportation Secretary Craig Thompson outlined how the new $75 million grant program would work.

The state budget as passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature included $90 million for local road projects. Evers vetoed it down to $75 million.

The Evers administration is shifting the money from the local roads program and making it a grant program that's open to any transportation project, including Milwaukee's street car known as the Hop.

Republicans don't have enough votes on their own to override a veto.

Wisconsin Department of Transportation Secretary-designee Craig Thompson made the announcement on Thursday.

“The grant program is designed to address a range of possible projects, and puts the decision-making in the hands of the locals,” said

Thompson. “We expect that communities will submit the project they believe will have the greatest impact on their economic development and growth.”

In June, Republican lawmakers had a budget provision that would have provided $90 million in supplemental funding to pay for work done on local roads. In July, Governor Tony Evers vetoed the amount down to $75 million.

Of the $75 million, about $30 million will go to towns, about $25 million to counties and about $20 million to cities and villages.

The grants will cover 90% of the costs, with local governments picking up the remaining 10%.

“We want to ensure that it is going to have the greatest economic benefit possible for each and everyone of these projects, so we are coming up with criteria that will look at how it affects employment, how it affects employers in a given area, how it affects freight, how it affects connectivity to jobs, and how it affects communities.”

Priority will be given to projects if they have a large economic impact and will not be centered on any certain metropolitan area.

“There will be regional distribution assurances that every area of this state receives money,” said Thompson.

Evers and Thompson do not want the grant program limited to local road projects. It can be for any transportation project, whether it is harbor or transit.

The program will mirror aspects of the Local Roads Improvement Program. The selection process will include local government committees. It will be competitive and involve stakeholder input and review. There will be minimal WisDOT oversight.

The Milwaukee Streetcar Project would also be eligible for a grant, which is not sitting well with Republicans.

Senator Scott Fitzgerald responded to the grant program on twitter. Stating: “The governor is taking money from local road construction to fund Milwaukee’s trolley to nowhere. Rural Dems should push back – veto override!”