Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Band-aid fix in Appleton and Fox-con leaves nothing for other roads

In a surprise campaign event announcement yesterday, Governor Walker announced that one freeway project in the Fox Valley was getting a boost in funding, and was going to be opened sooner than we thought.
The construction on U.S. 10 and State 441 will be finished a year earlier than expected, Gov. Scott Walker announced Monday during a visit to Appleton.

The work is expected to be completed in 2019 — a full year ahead of schedule — as a result of savings announced earlier this year that allowed work to move forward faster than anticipated…

A six-mile stretch of State 441 and U.S. 10 between Winnebago County CB in Fox Crossing and Oneida Street in Appleton is being rebuilt and widened from four to six lanes. A second bridge is also being built next to the Roland Kampo Memorial Bridge over Little Lake Butte des Morts.

The project began construction in 2014. The cost of the project had been estimated at $482 million, but a DOT report released this past summer estimated the cost at about $400 million.

The interchange between Interstate 41 and U.S. 10 is scheduled to open in the fall of 2018. The diverging diamond interchange planned for the State 441 and Oneida Street interchange is also expected to be completed in 2018.
Huh, funny that Walker showed up to announce this on the same day that Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson asked why money wasn't being used to take care of the Valley's increasing traffic needs.
“If a state transportation project here in the Fox Valley comes in under budget, why not fund another Fox Valley transportation project that’s been on hold for two budget cycles? The residents and businesses that heavily rely on Hwy 15 between Appleton and New London are tired of waiting. This dangerous stretch of highway is in desperate need of action, which is one of the many reasons why all of the local officials along this route are very supportive of funding this project. Much of the right of way is purchased, the design is complete, all we need now is the funding for construction. On behalf of all of these officials and the business and residents who utilize this key transportation corridor, I’d ask the Governor to keep any I-441 savings local and fund Hwy 15 construction. All we want for Christmas is our fair share!”
In addition, Assembly Dem Leader Gordon Hintz pointed out that even with the extra money now being funneled into it, Highway 10-441 isn't being finished “ahead of schedule” by any means.

In other words, what do you want Scotty, a cookie?

As for the budget side of the equation, I noted back in October there was a sizable amount of extra money that the DOT could tap for the next 2 years. That would seem like an obvious explanation of where the extra money is being tapped to take care of the work near Appleton in 2019.
Also worth looking at are the figures regarding the Transportation Fund in the Appendix of the AFR. Looks like the Transportation Fund ended up with a year-end balance of $219.1 million, which would be $74 million above what we saw projected in the budget that passed for Transportation last month.
But as I also noted in October, the reason there was such a large carryover is because WisDOT cut back on projects in the last Fiscal Year.
Total state spending in Transportation Fund
2015-16 $1,929.6 million
2016-17 $1,941.1 million (+$11.5 million, +0.6%)

Debt payments, Transportation Fund
2015-16 $340.8 million
2016-17 $356.1 million (+$15.3 million, +4.5%)

So that means we actually SPENT LESS on fixing the roads and in giving out local aids for roads and transportation in Fiscal Year 2017 than Fiscal Year 2016. Which helps to explain the side effects of the 2015-17 austerity budget. Think about how many more wheel taxes and similar local fees that have had to be imposed in the last 2 years so communities could adequately fix their streets, because they didn’t have enough funding from the state or feds to take care of these needs.
So really, these projects could have been completed on time and without fanfare if we had competent leadership at the Capitol, but instead our Guv was more worried about kissing up to DC lobbyist Grover Norquist by "holding the line on taxes" ahead of his (failed) presidential campaign instead of maintaining our state's infrasturcture. And now they're asking for applause for playing catch-up?

The other problem with funneling the money to the Appleton project is that it doesn’t help other everyday highways in the state. With $134 million going into the SE corner of the state to further subsidize the Fox-con, using up these excess DOT funds to keep people in Appleton happy means there is nothing left to fix everything else in the state. And there is also nothing to carry over to the next budget, where there are still around a $1 billion deficit to take care of in order to catch up to the needs that weren’t met in this budget.

And between the lines, the reason behind yesterday's announcement of funding for 10-441 is obvious- the Walker Administration is floundering on the road funding issue, and the weekend's revelation that they were throwing $134 million around Foxconn with no debate went over VERY badly. So now Walker is trying to appear that he isn’t screwing over the rest of the state, and trying to shore up support in NE Wisconsin that is clearly slipping.

No dice, Scotty. DOT is still in a funding mess, especially at the local road and state highway level, and any kind of Band-aid that you try to put on this won’t be nearly enough to cover up the many potholes and other road gaps that will open up in the coming months.


  1. Yep, our roads have deteriorated badly, a choice by Walker et al. They really don't care, yet they realize they need today's PR stunt so that people will accept them.

    All that taxpayer money going to Foxconn could just as easily gone to other purposes, say roads, schools, what have you.

    I say glue these bad priorities to their GOP necks, so voters know the score, and also use the same approach to that destroyer-in-chief, Paul Ryan.

  2. Deferred maintenance, like increased debt, cuts to the social safety net, and weakened environmental protection, is masked and deferred taxation.

    We will pay more to maintain our cars.
    Businesses will pay more to maintain their fleets.
    Construction and maintenance will be more expensive in the future.

    Republicans are fond of saying we shouldn't fix problems throwing money at them. I say you either take care of your shit or get buried in it.

  3. I think Rowen first coined “ Pothole Scotty “ - a well deserved nickname.