The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Mayor wants to put stimulus money into city streets

  • Mayor Barrett wants to see federal stimulus money shifted to current roads.
  • The mayor wants I-94 and Pabst Development projects halted for now.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett is hoping to amend the state transportation budget. Barrett wants to reallocate $221 million originally planned for freeway development to local road projects and improved mass transit.

Barrett wants to see the money, appropriated as a part of President Obama's stimulus package, shifted away from highways to surface streets.

A March 25 letter addressed to the 16-member Joint Committee on Finance of the Wisconsin State Legislature illustrated Barrett's wishes.

The mayor wrote to stop proposals of lane expansions on the Interstate-94, and halt the proposed Pabst Farms Interchange project, a plan to build three industrial buildings and an exit off I-94, because of a lack of development.

"We need to realign our transportation funding strategy to place an emphasis on maintaining our existing infrastructure and increasing our support for mass transit systems," Barrett wrote.

In the letter, Barrett said the Pabst development isn't occurring because no tenants have signed on and proposed Target and Kohl's stores do not meet the original description of Pabst being a "one-of-a-kind high-end retail destination."

Barrett committed $5.5 million to local road maintenance in 2008 as part of the City Local Streets Capital budget, an increase of 31 percent from 2005 when $4.2 million was allocated, the letter said.

As it pertains to I-94, Barrett said since local roads are "vital connections in delivering goods and services for economic growth," more money should be directed to surface streets than highways, for now.

Jodi Tabac, a spokeswoman from the Mayor's Office, said nothing is definitive in regard to the mayor's idea, but his staff is working to ensure its proposal can advance.

"The Barrett administration has a team of dedicated department heads and appropriate city employees who are helping to take the necessary steps to put through Mayor Barrett's plan," she said.

Barrett's plan for improving the transit infrastructure differs from the one proposed by Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker.

Fran McLaughlin, director of communications for the County Executive's Office, said Walker's plan requires fewer funds and serves more areas beside just downtown.

"The county executive has proposed bus rapid transit, which is like light rail, but instead hybrid buses that are much more efficient," McLaughlin said. "I don't know if (Barrett's) qualifies as mass transit, since it would be a three-mile loop downtown. This doesn't service the outskirts of the city that needs jobs, but strictly the downtown community."

Dennis Shook, regional communications manager for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, said there's really nothing to share in response to the potential allocations other than what Barrett is proposing.

"There haven't been any decisions made," Shook said. "There are a lot of questions still unanswered about what kind of development. The money won't go anywhere yet because it hasn't been allocated."

Barrett also warned in the letter that since 20 percent of Milwaukee's current roads ranked in "poor condition," the need is greater to fix them with the freeways not quite at capacity.

"I want to be clear that it is not my suggestion that the state halt its investment in the I-94 N/S corridor," Barrett wrote. "But spending those dollars for additional lanes now, while local streets throughout the state are crumbling and potholes expanding, defies common sense."

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