Three Milwaukee area legislators and the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce are trying to pull a rabbit out of a hat.
Good for them.
According to the Milwaukee Business Journal, “Republican legislators on Thursday will roll out a new effort to revive the Interstate 94 east-west reconstruction in Milwaukee County.”
Reporter Sean Ryan said Metro Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC) and other business groups “are mobilizing behind” the effort of Reps. Joe Sanfelippo and Dale Kooyenga and Sen. Alberta Darling. Ryan quotes the MMAC’s Steve Baas as saying “We don’t take ‘no’ for an answer” when it comes to the project’s importance.
One assumes Governor Scott Walker will either sign on to the new effort or, at a minimum, do nothing to block it. If successful, the move would take Walker off the hook for his stunning request last year that the federal government rescind its OK of the project. That request followed a $25 million planning effort initiated by Walker in 2011. [Surprisingly — to me at least — Governor Walker was cool to the idea in comments reported online in the Journal Sentinel this morning.]
As I wrote here in November, “There remains a narrow window of time in which the action could be reversed” and federal approval reinstated. Sanfelippo, Kooyenga, and Darling are now trying to thread that needle.
Apart from details of the plan that will be announced today, key questions include:
What will the Federal Highway Administration say? Will the plan be sufficient for FHWA to reinstate project approval?
What will Mayor Tom Barrett say? Will he urge Milwaukee legislators to get on board or stick to his previous opposition? Will Barrett support lawsuits aimed at stopping the project?
What about out-state legislators? Many are concerned that highway rehabilitation projects in their districts are jeopardized by inadequate transportation revenue.
When it comes to the big picture, what remains true is that the state has nowhere near enough revenue to maintain existing roads and rebuild the half-century-old interstate system. The initiative being announced today is a reminder of an issue that will be front and center when a new legislature convenes in a year. Patching together a few million now to revive the East-West will require the governor and legislators to find hundreds of millions to make the project really viable.