Group rallies for I-90 expansion

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Tuesday, April 13, 2010
— A proposal to widen Interstate 90/39 to six lanes between Madison and the Wisconsin-Illinois border has been discussed for years.

Assembly Speaker Mike Sheridan and others said Monday it’s time to move the idea from the proposal stage to the project stage.

Sheridan, D-Janesville, said he’s trying to get Gov. Jim Doyle to call a meeting of the Transportation Projects Commission, the state group that prioritizes road projects and puts them on a timetable for completion.

The commission, however, hasn’t met in seven years, and Sheridan said that if he can’t get Doyle to call a meeting, he would make it a priority to get the proposal before lawmakers and into the state budget.

“We’ve spent years talking about this expansion,” Sheridan said at a rally of the I-39/90 NOW Coalition.

The group is promoting the widening of the Interstate to create jobs, ensure safety and strengthen communities.

“Now is the time to get this done,” Sheridan told them.

To date, the state has spent nearly $3 million on an environmental assessment of the proposal. The Transportation Projects Commission has yet to list the I-90/39 expansion as a priority project, which means design and engineering work can’t be done.

Monday’s rally—orchestrated by a Madison public relations company—was in advance of “Rock County Day in Madison,” a lobbying event Wednesday at the state Capitol.

Dan Cunningham, a Forward Janesville vice president, said the Interstate expansion would be the main topic of discussion when Rock County representatives meet with lawmakers Wednesday.

Cunningham and Sheridan said the earliest that construction could start on the 45-mile stretch would be 2015 or 2016.

Cunningham said the state soon would have more transportation funding available than it has committed to current projects. That excess funding ranges form $28 million in 2011 to $334 million in 2018, and when totaled approaches $1.1 billion.

The expansion’s cost originally was estimated at $700 million, but more recent estimates have pushed it as high as $1 billion or $1.5 billion.

Cunningham said it’s likely federal dollars could be tapped for the project.

“The first step is to get in line,” he said. “Until it’s (put on a priority list), it’s not going to happen. And even if it is, there’s no guarantee it will happen.”

Cunningham said the stretch built in the late 1950s doesn’t meet the Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s safety standards. It averages more than 600 crashes a year, he said, adding that the section also hinders the area’s economic competitiveness.

Daily traffic counts approach 60,000 vehicles with a projected increase of 50 percent by 2020, he said

A six-lane route from the state line to Madison eventually would connect other six-lane sections, Cunningham said, and would make it safer and easier for local manufacturers and their outgoing and incoming shipments.

Last updated: 1:36 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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