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After Governor Scott Walker revealed this week the elimination of funding for the next two years to continue work on the I-94 expansion project, local elected officials from both sides of the aisle released statements slamming the decision.
The I-94 project is a multi-year, $1.7 billion expansion of the expressway between downtown Milwaukee and the Illinois state line. Work includes widening the expressway from three to four lanes and improving 17 interchanges, including all but one – Highway KR – in Racine County.
Highway G was reconstructed in 2009; the Highway C overpass was addressed in 2014; and the Highway 20 interchange was re-done during the summers of 2014 and 2015.
Under Walker’s proposed 2017-2019 budget, any further work will be delayed, and Racine County Executive Jonathan Delagrave doesn’t like what that could mean for attracting and retaining businesses here.
“The proposed delay of two years on the I-94 project in Racine County is disappointing. One of my priorities is to promote economic development along the strategic I-94 corridor. The proposed delays make it difficult to attract new investments and retain businesses that depend on properly developed and maintained roads along this critical stretch,” he said in a statement.
State Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-Racine, all but called Walker a liar when he pointed out how he was promised funding in the 2017-2019 budget after money was diverted to the Zoo Interchange in Milwaukee County.
“I was promised (2-1/2 years ago) and repeatedly since that the I-94 N-S expansion would be completed in the 17-19 budget,” he said in his statement. “Road safety and economic development in Racine and Kenosha County is just as important as in Milwaukee, Rock and Outagamie counties. Especially when the designated funding for this project was repurposed for the project in Milwaukee County. I intend to hold people to their word. Taxpayers deserve nothing less.”
But, Walker challenged lawmakers to come up with their own ideas for funding the work.
“Those who want to spend more should tell voters where it’s coming from,” he posted on Twitter.
The governor also defended his budget, saying that he provided more money for local roads projects without raising taxes or fees.
Democratic state Sen. Bob Wirch sided with his Republican colleagues, calling Walker’s proposed budget a ploy for political points.
“I-94 is the gateway to Wisconsin, and completion of this project is a key to economic development in the entire region. It needs to be a priority, not something that is pushed off so that Governor Walker can score political points. This delay will hurt businesses and our communities in the short run and cost taxpayers more money in the long run,” his statement reads. “This is a political move that simply kicks the can down the road at great expense to the rest of us.”