Between work done on Interstate 94 in Racine County and the local roads and state highways in the Foxconn area, roughly $225 million has been spen[t] as of the end of January.This highway work was based on the pipe dream of "13,000 jobs at a Gen 10 panel factory for Foxconn in Racine County". We now know neither of those things will come close to happening, but the road projects keep coming. DOT’s project manager for the Foxconn area claims in the article “[the Foxconn work] didn’t delay any other work statewide,” as he cites $100 million in underbids for other projects and $66 million from the Feds from their left-over funds on projects.
And there still is roughly $155.2 million worth of work remaining on local roads and $167.1 million worth of work remaining on Interstate 94…..
According to an open records request, the state, along with Mount Pleasant and Racine County, have spent $106.9 million on state highways such as Highway H, KR, 11 and the construction of Wisconn Valley Way. Those funds spent also include work done on Braun Road and 90th Street.
So far seven construction contracts have been awarded along with construction oversight contracts.
When the local road projects are completed, it’s estimated the state would have spent more than $221 million, and Racine County and Mount Pleasant would have spent $31.5 million. There is $9.6 million of federal funding used on these projects for a total of $262.1 million.
But we know that calculation is BS if we go back to a Legislative Fiscal Bureau memo from February of 2018, where the Walker Administration laughably tried to claim that a budgeted increase in State Highway Rehab (SHR) funding meant that more money was available. It wasn't, because the Foxconn projects were using money targeted for other statewide work in that budget, and the LFB noted that the state was far behind before the Walker Admin redirected the funds to Foxconn.
Finally, the use of any SHR program funding for previously unscheduled Foxconn-related local and state highway work will also impact the overall backlog of SHR roadwork, which can be measured by the estimated decline in the condition of state highways. As noted earlier in this memorandum, even at the higher amount of biennial rehabilitation program funding initially proposed by the Governor ($1,701.6 million), state highway conditions would be expected to decline substantially over a ten-year period, assuming a constant funding level. Estimates by the Department during 2017-19 budget deliberations indicated that funding in excess of $2.4 billion per biennium would be needed over a ten-year period to maintain (prevent a decline in) current state highway conditions. Given the expected deterioration of state highway conditions, using any SHR funding for completing work on roads that were previously under local jurisdiction or for advancing state highway work related to the Foxconn development, whether budgeted or through let savings, limits the funding that could have otherwise been used to make needed improvements to state highways throughout the state.
That $66 million in federal redistribution funds also wasn't much different than we get in a typical year, and was largely assumed in the state budget. So yes, money is still being funneled down to Foxconn instead of going to the many backlogged projects in the state.
And given that the diminishing number of employees and products that will be at the Racine County Foxconn site, why are we expanding all of this highway capacity? That, along with the fiscal and social costs of acquiring the land for these bigger highways is a big reason why this week’s Racine County Board meeting may feature questions and controversy about Foxconn road construction.
The County Board is scheduled on March 12 to discuss a resolution on the controversial widening of a 2.8-mile stretch of Highway KR a move that could result in eminent domain being used to take substantial portions of land from residents of Racine and Kenosha counties.If there’s not going to be a major employment center nor many products being sent out of the Foxconn Racine County site, why should we continue to spend these scarce funds to widen and change the roads? And then you are thinking of using eminent domain on the local landowners, who are paying property taxes that Foxconn isn’t?
The resolution would authorize the acquisition of land from landowners on the Racine County side of Highway KR, including provisions for eminent domain if deemed necessary. The board is discussing the resolution less than two weeks after a Wisconsin Department of Transportation public hearing and open house, attended by dozens of residents who live along the highway, revealed strong negative sentiment about the project among affected landowners.
As planned, the widening would require the acquisition of 68.9 acres of residential and agricultural land from 400 feet east of Highway H to just east of Taylor Avenue (Old Green Bay Road/Highway M in Kenosha County), with most of it coming from the Racine County side of the highway. The $59 million project would reconstruct the two-lane rural road into a four-lane urban road that would accommodate increases in traffic between the Interstate and Highway 31, anticipated as the Wisconn Valley project is developed.
The cost would be shared by Racine and Kenosha counties and the state Department of Transportation. The counties are responsible for land acquisition, which would affect more than two dozen property owners and necessitate tearing down four homes and one business in Mount Pleasant.
Especially when at the same time, Scottholes multiply around the state with taxes needing to be raised just to pay for projects that should have been started and finished already. What a complete waste.