Gibraltar Highway Resurface Pushed Back to 2019

Pending grant for culvert replacement could affect timeline, closures

The resurfacing of Fish Creek’s downtown has been delayed from fall of 2018 to spring of 2019 due to delays receiving an environmental analysis.

“There’s some benefits to the staging, getting it done while the businesses are in their slower season,” said Jeremy Ashauer, project manager with the Department of Transportation (DOT). Ashauer said after conversations with local business owners, they determined a road closure in the spring was favorable to a fall closure.

The delay is not due to stalled transportation funding at the state level. Ashauer said the environmental process and approval of the environmental documentation for the project took longer than expected. Instead of closing the highway in October, the DOT hopes to begin work in April.

One looming question in the construction timeline is the possibility of a grant through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) to replace the culvert at Fish Creek near Not Licked Yet. The town is waiting to hear back from the Department of Natural Resources on the grant.

“It’s going to make things interesting and a lot more involved,” said Ashauer. “That would essentially divide the town.”

The construction on the culvert would likely close down the entire highway for three months, according to Ashauer.

“If that becomes a reality there will be a lot of involvement with the community, how to get people around the town,” Ashauer said.

But the prospects for GLRI funds are bleak.

On May 23, Donald Trump released his 2018 budget proposal, which included elimination of the GLRI. The funds go toward cleaning up the Great Lakes and providing habitat and wildlife protection and restoration. The culvert for Fish Creek is believed to contribute to a decline in spawning fish the past few decades.

“I was trying to piggyback on [the highway] project and right now that grant application process is on hold due to the current administration putting a freeze on any money going out from the EPA,” said Matt Schaeve, Environmental Analysis and Review Specialist with the DNR, at an April 10 meeting regarding Fish Creek’s watershed.

Trump’s proposed cuts to the GLRI still need to go through Congress and many in the Republican party, including Congressman Mike Gallagher and Governor Scott Walker, have spoken out in opposition to the cuts.

“While I agree with the President’s general efforts to rein in out-of-control spending and reduce the massive national debt and deficit, his specific proposal to cut funding for the Great Lakes is both short-sighted and ill-advised,” said Gallagher in a statement.

If GLRI funding is spared, the town expects to hear about the status of the grant by the end of the summer.

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