Gov. Tony Evers
Gov. Tony Evers

Money will pay for 152 projects in nearly every county across the state

Communities across Wisconsin will receive much-needed funding for road projects, with Gov. Tony Evers announcing Wednesday a one-time, $75 million infusion for 152 transportation-related projects across the state.

That money will go toward road projects in 84 towns, 34 cities and 34 villages and will come from the state’s Multimodal Local Supplement (MLS) fund.

The governor announced the funding near Highway M in Brown County. That highway will receive $1 million for widening, the creation of a sidewalk, a bike lane and a controlled pedestrian crossing. Evers was joined by state Department of Transportation Secretary Craig Thompson.  

“No matter where you go in Wisconsin, folks can all agree that we need to fix our crumbling roads,” Evers said in a news release. “These newly- funded projects are going to impact folks all across our state, improving safety, connectivity, and economic growth in each community.”

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said legislative Republicans advocated for spending $90 million to repair local roads. He criticized Evers for reducing that figure to $75 million.

“It’s disappointing that 100 percent of the money isn’t going to local roads as intended,” Vos said. “Instead, millions of dollars are being diverted to bike paths and buses, with fewer dollars available to help crumbing roads.”

The MLS program allows communities to prioritize transportation needs and submit projects such as roads, bridges, railroads, and pedestrian/bicycle accommodations.

More than 1,600 applications for MLS funding were received, a sign of the crumbling condition of roads in many parts of the state, Evers said. 

The lack of funding for Wisconsin’s roads has received criticism in recent years. Legislative Democrats have proposed adopting a gas tax to help pay for road maintenance, but the Republican-controlled Legislature has refused to approve that measure. 

Lawmakers from both parties said they’re concerned about the future of road funding in the state despite the addition of nearly $400 million in new revenue allotted for transportation that was included in the 2019-21 state budget.

Roads in disrepair have prompted a growing number of Wisconsin municipalities to adopt vehicle registration fees, commonly referred to as a “wheel tax.” 

Thirty-seven Wisconsin cities, counties, and villages require motorists to pay the extra fee to help pay for crumbling roads and bridges. Wheel taxes are in addition to the annual $85 vehicle registration fee the state collects per vehicle. Many of those fees have been enacted or sharply increased in recent years.