WI I-39 project more than doubles in cost, nears $2B
An expansion of Interstate 39 in southern Wisconsin originally estimated at $715 million is now set to reach $1.75 billion, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Wisconsin Department of Transportation officials previously reported additional costs of roughly $500 million, but, due to the state's accounting methods, that figure did not include a $550 million interchange related to the project.
With limited funding options available, state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald has proposed the short-term use of the state's general fund to finance road construction to reduce pressure on the highway budget.
In January, state auditors determined that the Wisconsin DOT miscalculated cost estimates for about 16 ongoing highway projects, causing budget overruns of approximately $3 billion. Examiners said the agency failed to factor items like inflation into its original estimates.
Wisconsin isn’t the only state struggling to come up with the necessary money to finance its highway repairs and upgrades. In Omaha, NE, officials, have started converting paved roads to gravel in an effort to reduce the cost of upkeep, according to The New York Times.
Discussions about how to finance transportation infrastructure can often erupt into partisan battles.
After reaching an agreement last year on a 23-cent gas-tax hike to add much-needed cash to the state's Transportation Trust Fund, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and state lawmakers arrived at an impasse over how to counteract the extra tax in the state budget. Christie wanted a sales tax cut, and when Senate Democrats wouldn’t approve it, he stopped work on about $3.5 billion of state highway projects in early July. He eventually ordered that the most critical projects be resumed, but it wasn't until October that full construction continued, after Democrats and Republicans agreed on a sales tax reduction that Christie also supported.
Earlier this month, Christie proposed spending an additional $400 million on state infrastructure repairs but did not include a comprehensive funding strategy.
- Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Cost of I-39 expansion south of Madison balloons to nearly $2 billion
- The New York Times Omaha’s Answer to Costly Potholes? Go Back to Gravel Roads
Follow Kim Slowey on Twitter