It was always a risk that states would use funding from the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to double down on the transportation systems that create congestion and air pollution.
“A $283 million boost in federal highway money that Wisconsin is getting from Washington got approval from the Legislature’s budget committee Tuesday, but only after the Republican majority rewrote some of the spending plan for the new funds,” reports Erik Gunn for the Wisconsin Examiner.
“The money comes to the state as a result of the federal [Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act] enacted in late 2021 and the 2022 federal appropriations bill that followed this March,” adds Gunn to explain the state’s largesse.
The reasoning behind the Republican rewrite of the spending plan is worth paying attention for planners and advocates hoping to fund and complete projects proven to reduce automobile trips, reduce congestion, and reduce air pollution from combustion engines. The original plan for the $283 million, proposed by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT), devoted $4.3 million of the funding to the state’s Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement program (CMAQ). The changes implemented by Republican committee members, however, ensure that the CMAQ funding won’t be spent on bicycle, pedestrian, or trail facilities.
The WisDOT is limited to spending CMAG funds in non-attainment and maintenance counties (i.e., high air pollution areas, as defined by federal law) in southeastern and northeastern Wisconsin—Milwaukee, Racine, Kenosha, Waukesha, Washington, Ozaukee, Walworth, Sheboygan, Kewaunee, Manitowoc, and Door—so the funding changes deliver a blow to plans in the locations that need non-polluting transportation projects the most.
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