Interstate expansion still set to start in 2015
JANESVILLE Preparations for the widening of Interstate 90/39 will continue despite Gov. Scott Walker's recent request that a state board review major highway projects that have been approved but not yet started.
That's according to Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie, who said the state plans to move forward with the project that would expand the Interstate from four to six lanes from the Illinois state line to Madison and from four to eight lanes through Janesville.
The state's Transportation Projects Commission approved the I-90/39 project in 2010. Construction is scheduled to start in 2015 and end in 2019.
Questions about funding sources for state construction projects have surfaced in the last several months.
In his budget address last week, Walker specifically addressed major construction projects in Milwaukee but made no mention of the I-90/39 project.
To help the state's stressed road fund, Walker proposed that the commission review major highway projects to determine which could be eliminated.
Specifically, the language in Walker's budget proposal directs the commission to "examine each enumerated major highway project on which no construction has been performed to determine if the project is appropriate for removal from the list of enumerated major highway projects."
Walker's proposal mandates that the commission recommend to the Legislature by January 2016 any projects appropriate for removal from the list.
Construction has not started on the I-90/39 project, which is currently estimated to cost $835 million. That makes the project a candidate for commission review.
But construction could be started by the time the commission does its review sometime in the next three years.
Earlier this week, Sen. Tim Cullen's office provided The Gazette with a list of eight major projects "that currently align" with the language in Walker's budget bill. The list came from the state's Department of Transportation.
I-90/39 is on the list.
So, too, is a Highway 81/213 bypass of Beloit that the commission approved in 1993. Construction has not started on that project, either.
When asked whether the I-90/39 project is subject to commission review, Werwie said in an email: "There are no plans for the TPC to review this project. We plan to move forward with the project."
Cullen, a Janesville Democrat and a member of the commission, said construction work is scheduled to start as early as this year on the Racine Street interchange in Janesville.
"The way the bill is written, construction already done may knock the project off the list before the TPC even gets to it," he said. "My goal is to get more specifics on what construction is planned when and find out just what the DOT's definition of construction is."
Cullen said the commission might meet as early as this fall.
In the meantime, the state is spending millions of dollars on design work.
Walker's 2013-15 budget includes about $70 million for the project. Significant spending increases are expected after 2015, when heavy construction begins.
Cullen and others have expressed concerns about a projected shortfall in the state's transportation fund for 2015-17.
"This project still has a broad consensus around the state that the work has to be done," he said. "To me, the issue is when, and that depends on funding, particularly in the 2015-17 biennium."