While plans for resurfacing Hwy. 42 through Gibraltar and Ephraim are underway and slated to begin in the fall of 2018, the funds are not yet in the coffers of construction crews. A letter from Governor Scott Walker to Transportation Secretary Mark Gottlieb on June 27 called for the Department of Transportation (DOT) to submit its budget request earlier than usual, “to allow for a full public discussion.”
Walker asked for an increase to local road aids and state highway maintenance while emphasizing reduced spending and rejecting proposed tax hikes.
“For decades, the state’s gas tax has been among the highest in the nation. Raising the gas tax or vehicle registration fees without an equal or greater reduction in taxes elsewhere is not an option, and it would throw a wet blanket on our growing economy,” wrote Walker.
Increased funds for local road aids without raising taxes means a decrease in funds for “Mega Projects,” or those projects that cost more than $500 million, which are concentrated in southeast Wisconsin.
But the project in Ephraim and Gibraltar falls outside of these budget categories and the village and town will not know if the project is funded even after the state budget for 2017-19 has been approved.
“The [Hwy. 42] project is not local road aid nor highway maintenance. The project is part of the State Highway Rehabilitation program,” said Jeremy Ashauer, project manager for the DOT for Brown, Door and Kewaunee counties. “It is budgeted for within the Northeast Region six-year plan.”
That six-year plan lays out all of the projects the DOT hopes to complete, but delays are commonplace.
“It’s been pushed out several times as everybody here knows,” said Ashauer of the projected highway resurface in a meeting with the local officials of Ephraim and Gibraltar. “At this point I wouldn’t foresee it going further, but I can’t say that for sure.”
Part of Ashauer’s confidence in the project being funded is in the rough condition of the road, giving priority to the project.
“With the maintenance you see on the roadway here, the road is not in the greatest condition. To keep pushing it out…it’s a little more on the priority side,” said Ashauer.
While the 2017-19 state budget will not have a separate line item for highway resurfacing in Door County, the funds allocated to the DOT as a whole may affect the timetable of the project.
“The state budget does not allocate funds to specific projects and allows the Department of Transportation to manage the funds,” said Ashauer in an email. “Budgets can influence the programming of projects, as there could be increases or decreases which affect how much the Department can do in any given year.”
In the letter to Gottlieb, Walker also asked to keep new bonding levels low after asking for a record-high $1.3 million in borrowing in the 2015-17 budget cycle.
Dick Skare, chair of the Gibraltar Town Board, will meet with members of the DOT regarding the upcoming Hwy. 42 project on July 15 at 10 am at the Gibraltar Town Center. The meeting is for information gathering only and no action will be taken. The meeting is open to the public.
To read Walker’s letter to Gottlieb, visit thewheelerreport.com/wheeler_docs/files/0627walker.pdf.