Monday, February 16, 2009

WisDOT 'Big-Roads' Favoritism Sinks City Of Milwaukee Immediate Projects, Needs

I had earlier posted the news, based on Wisconsin Department of Transportation documents and web postings, that the agency was telling local governments that big roads were to get the first round of stimulus funding - - at the expense of city street grids and other urban needs.

Late last week, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett sent WisDOT secretary Frank Busalacchi a letter pointing out specifically how that decision will hurt Milwaukee's street and bridge needs.

Here is the text of the letter:

February 12, 2009

Mr. Frank Busalacchi, Secretary
Wisconsin Department of Transportation
4802 Sheboygan Avenue – Room 120B
P.O. Box 7910
Madison, Wisconsin 53707-7910

Subject: Federal Stimulus Local Project Solicitation

Dear Mr. Busalacchi:

In response to your February 6th memo, City of Milwaukee Department of Public Works staff is evaluating and attempting to identify projects that meet the criteria, as you have outlined, for economic stimulus funding.

In anticipation of the Economic Stimulus Plan, the City of Milwaukee Department of Public Works had identified in November of last year approximately $43 million of local street and bridge work ($15 million in local street paving & preventative maintenance work, $13 million in moveable bridge work, and $15 million in alley work) that would require little to no additional design work and could be let to contract for construction very quickly.

This work was included in a larger inventory of City of Milwaukee projects (attached) that I had forwarded to the President-Elect Barack Obama Transition Team and the Wisconsin Congressional Delegation on December 18, 2008, for consideration under the Economic Stimulus Package.

Governor Jim Doyle was copied with this transmittal.

However, based on your memo and guidance on the use of stimulus funding for transportation purposes, the projects that we had identified late last year are not eligible.

I don't know if WisDOT is getting insight or direction from the Federal Government on how the stimulus funding must be used or if WisDOT has some flexibility and discretion on how to administer the use of the stimulus funding, but the criteria and process that you have outlined not only prohibits all of the street and bridge work we originally identified but it significantly limits the number of local projects that could utilize such funding.

The types of projects and the level of detail (all environmental reports, DSR, utilities coordination, permits, right of way, TMP, and PS&E) that you are asking us to submit by March 17, 2009, generally requires 2 to 3 years to develop under WisDOT processes. It is impossible to advance such a project in one month. The only way we could possibly meet your criteria is if we submit projects that have already been

Mr. Frank Busalacchi
Page 2
February 12, 2009

developed and planned for under the existing STP-Urban (STP-U); STP-Rural (STP-R); Local Bridge; Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP); Transportation Enhancements (TE) and Congestion Mitigation & Air Quality (CMAQ) (air quality non-attainment counties only) programs and possibly redirect the funding that has been authorized for these projects to future projects.

However, this doesn't accomplish the intent of the stimulus plan to generate immediate additional work above and beyond what is already scheduled.

To that end, I strongly urge the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to determine some way for the local communities that have the capabilities, such as the City of Milwaukee, to directly utilize a portion of the stimulus funding for projects that can have an immediate impact in putting people to work.

Our $43 million in local street and bridge work would provide that immediate impact. I respectfully request a meeting with you and your staff to discuss any possible options that might be available to us.


Tom Barrett

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