Wednesday, May 6, 2009

SEWRPC Committee Shifts More Stimulus Funds To Milwaukee

An advisory committee to the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission voted 15-4 Wednesday to move the bulk of $38.7 million in stimulus transportation funding that can be allocated by local officials to the City of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County.

This is more in line with language in the stimulus statute that says allocation priority shall go to areas of economic distress - - which in that portion of the seven-county SEWRPC territory known as the Milwaukee Urbanized Area means the City of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County.

This follows weeks of wrangling during which state transportation officials and some legislators outside of the City of Milwaukee were promoting suburban allocations.

To achieve the vote, SEWRPC staff proposed including an existing methodology - - the relative amount of arterial street miles in the region - - that is used to distribute regional transportation dollars annually.

There is substantial overlap between where those lane-miles are located in the region, and areas of economic distress, as the City of Milwaukee has a great deal of arterial street-lane miles relative to many smaller communities, as well as most of the region's low-income and unemployed residents.

While some stimulus dollars will find their way to smaller and suburban communities, preliminary estimates are that about 40% of the funding will go to City of Milwaukee projects, and more dollars to Milwaukee County projects, which means a great deal of these funds will be spent where County Executive Scott Walker said there'd be no stimulus money spent.

Lesser amounts would be allocated to projects in Cudahy, South Milwaukee, West Allis, the City of Waukesha and in the County of Waukesha.

SEWRPC Executive Director Ken Yunker, whose staff drew up the proposal that passed with no rancor and relatively little discussion, said the goals were fairness, reasonableness and following the statute, along with getting projects underway.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who had argued at earlier committee meetings that the stimulus funding should be focused on areas of economic distress, did not attend the Wednesday meeting.

All told, communities had submitted requests to the committee totalling more than $213 million.

Most stimulus dollars are under the control of state officials, but the stimulus law broke out a portion for allocation by Municipal Planning Organizations, such as SEWRPC, that could be more responsive to grassroots concerns.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

now how does one get WisDOT to follow suit, instead of completely refusing to follow this requirement?