A new report suggests delaying several major highway projects in Wisconsin could end up costing taxpayers an extra $160 million, while delaying other economic benefits to residents and businesses that would benefit from the improved roads.
The study, released by the Transportation Development Association, was conducted by researchers at the UW-Whitewater. It analyzed the impact of four major projects in the state – an expansion of I-39/90 from Madison to the Wisconsin-Illinois state line, U.S. Highway 10/State Highway 441 in the Fox River Valley, U.S. Highway 151/Verona Road on Madison’s west side, and State Highway 23 between Fond du Lac and Plymouth. The Department of Transportation recently announced it was delaying those projects, along with a fifth not examined in the study, for at least two years.
The report found projects would have short-term impact on Wisconsin’s economy of almost $3 billion, create 4,100 construction jobs, and, when completed, bring $185 million in annual benefits to businesses in the affected area. It also found that inflation would increase the costs of the projects by $80 million over each of the next two years.
TDA Executive Director Craig Thompson said the report “reaffirms what I think we all instinctively know: improving the quality of our roads puts businesses and people in the road construction industry to work, but after completion, additional benefits accrue to businesses in the region from the more efficient access to markets.”
The study comes as Governor Scott Walker has been pushing lawmakers to release additional transportation bonding that was included in the state budget, which requires authorization from the Joint Finance Committee. Thompson says it’s unclear if the $350 million would be enough for all of the projects to get back on schedule or allow just some of the work to move forward.