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I-90/39 expansion plan seen as top priority: DOT

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JAMES P. LEUTE
September 17, 2010
— The proposed expansion of Interstate 90/39 in Rock and Dane counties will go to a state commission next month as the top priority among four highway projects recommended by the state’s Department of Transportation.

For the first time in his eight years in office, Gov. Jim Doyle agreed in August to convene the state’s Transportation Projects Commission, the powerful state committee that recommends major highway projects to the Legislature.


When it meets Oct. 19, the TPC will consider five statewide projects advanced by the DOT, which is recommending the TPC approve only four of them.


Topping the list is the 45-mile stretch of Interstate between the Wisconsin-Illinois state line and the Beltline in Madison. The project would expand the two-lane highway to three lanes in both directions.


Half of the project’s expected cost of more than $1 billion would come from state borrowing. The remainder would be split between the state’s transportation fund and the federal government.


DOT Secretary Frank Busalacchi said in a letter to Doyle this week that his department evaluated all five projects for their ability to enhance the state’s economy, improve highway service and safety, minimize environmental impacts and achieve community objectives.


Out of a maximum 110 points, the local Interstate project scored 89.6, more than four points higher than its closest competitor.


“Obviously, we’re very pleased that our project was ranked as high as it was,” said Dan Cunningham, a Forward Janesville vice president and coordinator of the group’s I-39/90 Coalition that’s been promoting the expansion at state and federal levels. “It’s important that the TPC enumerate this project and the others because there’s a logjam of worthy projects in this state.


“For Wisconsin to be competitive in the economic development world, we need to upgrade the infrastructure and expand where necessary where it makes sense.”


The 14-member TPC is chaired by the governor and has five members from each house, including three from the majority party in both and two each from the minority party. It also includes three citizen members.


For at least the next few months, Democrats control the Senate, Assembly and governor’s office.


Assembly Speaker Mike Sheridan has appointed Assembly Democrats to the TPC that he believes will vote favorably on the I-90/39 project.


“I’m convinced that this infrastructure improvement will help to create good-paying jobs in south central Wisconsin, both as new businesses are attracted to the Interstate corridor and as existing companies expand, thanks to better shipping lanes,” Sheridan said in a statement.


“… My top priority as Speaker and as the state representative for the people of Janesville has been and must continue to be getting people back to work and Wisconsin’s economy back on track. With Gov. Doyle’s support of the I-39/90 project, I believe that we are heading in the right direction.”


Proposed projects

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation will present five highway projects to the Transportation Projects Commission (TPC) on Tuesday, Oct. 19. The DOT will recommend the TPC advance only the top four as “Major Highway Projects” to the state Legislature.


The projects, and their DOT scores, are:


-- Interstate 90/39 between the state line and Beltline, 89.6.


-- Highway 38 in Racine and Milwaukee counties, 85.4.


-- U.S. 10/Highway 441 in the Appleton area, 83.3.


-- Highway 15 near New London, 78.2.


-- Highway 51/Business through Plover and Whiting, 53.


The DOT will recommend the Plover-Whiting reconstruction project instead be pursued through the state’s highway rehabilitation program



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