A year ago Governor Scott Walker said new freeway reconstruction in southeastern Wisconsin was over “for the foreseeable future.”
Thanks in part to Foxconn, the future is now.
The special session legislation designed to advance the Foxconn development includes $252.4 million in general fund debt to re-start the moribund I-94 reconstruction between Milwaukee and Racine.
The reliance on the general fund is an implicit acknowledgement that the transportation fund can’t handle significant new debt.
While Foxconn jump-started the North-South portion of I-94, that is only one piece of the Southeastern Wisconsin freeway story. Milwaukee legislators such as Senator Alberta Darling have warned that federal aid for rebuilding the East-West portion of I-94 (between the Marquette and Zoo Interchanges) is in jeopardy.
Will the Legislature OK hundreds of millions for I-94 North-South without also advancing the East-West project? Will Walker’s ultimatum on no gas tax increase mean that I-94 East-West also will require still more new debt?
And then there is I-43 between Glendale and State Highway 60. The state’s investment of millions in planning that reconstruction is also at risk if the feds lose patience with the longstanding delays in that project.
Major businesses such as Miller and Harley-Davidson, which together employ several thousand workers in metro Milwaukee, surely will have noted that Foxconn has energized theNorth-South I-94 project. Will this be the spur they need to get more aggressive politically about the languished East-West segment? Might they be ready to remind Walker that they don’t want to be taken for granted?
Indeed, if a new brewery or international motorcycle maker inquired about locating near I-94 in Milwaukee, would reconstruction of that freeway be part of an incentive package?