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Nov 7, 201701:51 PMTransportation Matters

with Craig Thompson

Is it possible even Foxconn isn't enough to finally get North-South Corridor finished?

(page 1 of 2)

For years I have read surveys conducted by national site selection magazines that regularly ask CEOs across the country to rank factors for choosing where to locate, and “access to highways” is consistently the most important or second most important factor. So, I wasn’t surprised to see that the legislative package to land Foxconn included several hundred million dollars of bonding to finally get the 36-mile stretch of I-94 between Milwaukee and Illinois, known as the North-South Corridor, finished.

In my mind, it would have been almost inconceivable for a company to consider building a plant the size of nine Lambeau Fields directly on a stretch of interstate that is in such desperate need of improvement.

However, prior to Foxconn emerging on the scene, the governor had submitted his budget to the legislature with no funding for the I-94 North-South Corridor — again. That angered Van Wanggaard, a Republican senator from Racine who quipped, “It doesn’t make sense.” He also pointed out, “Now this is the third time, so how many times are we going to get pushed back?” It was a fair question. The project was started way back in 2009 only to get stalled in 2011, and it’s been mothballed ever since. This is a project the department says, “corrects the deteriorated condition and obsolete design of the roadway and bridges.”

Luckily for Senator Wanggaard and his constituents, the upside of luring Foxconn to locate in Racine was finally enough momentum to get that long-delayed segment of interstate off the schneid.

Or was it?

Most reporting on the Foxconn legislative package pointed out that the $250 million of state bonding was contingent upon getting additional money from the feds. But, in a press release from the Department of Transportation last week, Wisconsin apparently has told the federal government if we are not successful in securing a $246 million INFRA grant the corridor won’t be completed until 2032. Really, 2032?

Now, if I was a betting man — and I am — I would like Wisconsin’s chances. President Trump participated in the announcement of Foxconn, after all. Stakeholder groups across Wisconsin, including mine, have sent in letters of support to the Federal Highway Administration. But have we really put ourselves in a position where the only way we can rebuild this nearly 60-year-old stretch of interstate — which is obviously hugely important to the brass at Foxconn, not to mention local communities and businesses — is to win a $246 million grant from the federal government?

In the release WisDOT Secretary Dave Ross rightfully points out, “The I-94 North-South Corridor plays a key role in the local and regional economy of southeast Wisconsin. With new businesses investing in this region such as Foxconn, Amazon, Uline, and Northwestern Mutual, WisDOT is looking to ensure that the transportation of goods and passengers throughout this region meets business and individual needs.”

And the only way to ensure that is with a grant from the federal government? Wisconsin isn’t able to make something this important happen on its own?

For those who have argued that we don’t have a transportation revenue problem, this latest development may cause them to reconsider.

(Continued)

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Nov 7, 2017 04:47 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

You can add to that list any number of roads near epic which of course is growing in leaps and bounds and accounted directly or indirectly for a large portion of the job growth under Walker - needed repairs to M and PD have been discussed for years. The more interesting aspect of this is that development doesn't necessarily pay for itself especially when it is funded by various tax incentives further depleting the resources not only needed for roads but schools and other critical services. (Fox conn was passed in a budget that cut special funding for rural schools and emergency medical services)

Nov 8, 2017 09:29 am
 Posted by  Anonymous

My guess is that improving the I-39 Corridor will add more growth overall than improving the North-South Corridor. Answer one question, if you are a manufacturer in PA or Ohio (or points east of Chicago) and are shipping to anywhere in Wisconsin (other than MKE), Minneapolis, or points west, will your goods shipped by truck go through Milwaukee or Janesville? The answer is 100% of the goods shipped under my scenario go through Janesville. This is the real bottleneck in our state's transportation needs.

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About This Blog

Craig Thomspon is the executive director of the Transportation Development Association of Wisconsin. Founded in 1971, the Transportation Development Association of Wisconsin promotes the vitality and safety of the state's transportation system, including public transit systems, public-use and general-aviation airports, railroads, commercial ports, and roads. Thompson also serves as secretary for the referendum committee Vote Yes for Transportation. www.TDAwisconsin.org and www.VoteYesforTransportation.com.

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