Janesville24.4°

Interstate expansion project in federal hands

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JAMES P. LEUTE
June 30, 2011
— Having successfully traveled through the Wisconsin Legislature, the Interstate 90/39 expansion project is now likely headed to Washington, D.C.

Earlier this week, Gov. Scott Walker signed a 2011-13 state budget that includes the 45-mile project that would widen the Interstate from two lanes to three between the Beltline in Madison and the Illinois state line.


That puts the project on the books for construction to start in 2014 or 2015. It should take five years to complete.


In 2010 dollars, the project is expected to cost $715 million, but several transportation officials have estimated it will cost more than $1 billion by the time it’s finished. Funding is expected to come from a combination of the state’s segregated transportation budget, state borrowing and federal aid.


“I’m not sure that anyone knows at this point exactly how it will be funded or what the percentages will be,” said Dan Cunningham, a Forward Janesville vice president. Cunningham also is coordinator of the I-90/39 NOW Coalition, a group of concerned citizens, businesspeople and municipal leaders from Beloit, Clinton, Edgerton, Evansville, Janesville and Milton that’s advanced the project.


Cunningham said he would put together a local contingent to travel to Washington late this year or early next to lobby on behalf of the project.


“The next hurdle is to get funding in the federal transportation budget so adequate funds are available for projects like this,” he said. “We also want to make sure that the money that Wisconsin sends to Washington comes back somewhat intact.


“The state has done just about all it can; now it’s the feds’ turn.”


Because it’s part of the state budget, the project has a high likelihood of becoming reality, he said.


“It’s not guaranteed, as there have been projects that have been enumerated in the past that just moldered away,” Cunningham said. “But this project’s inclusion in the final budget is exciting news.


“It’s a demonstration of commitment to the project that has had pretty near unanimous support since the beginning.”


Enumeration of the project is a statutory budget step that makes it eligible to receive state and federal funds. The current budget includes money for design work, Cunningham said, adding that he’s heard the state has already interviewed design teams.


Interstate expansion has long been Forward Janesville’s top legislative priority. The organization led the formation of the coalition.


Economic development and safety have been the driving force of the group’s push for the widening project.


“The economic challenges facing Janesville and other Rock County communities have been well chronicled,” said David Bagley, chairman of Forward Janesville and director of McGladrey in Janesville.


“It is time to write a new chapter for our area that includes jobs, economic stability and hope for the future.”



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