Let’s rebuild the Zoo Interchange the right way

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:39 pm

By Gov. Jim Doyle, for SBT

After inheriting a $3.2 billion deficit, we’ve worked hard over the past four years to balance the budget, create thousands of new jobs and get this state heading in the right direction.

Upgrading our state’s roads is an important part of reaching these goals, by attracting and retaining good Wisconsin businesses that help grow our economy. That’s why in my last budget, I increased the road budget 16 percent, including major investments in Milwaukee and southeast Wisconsin — the heart of our state’s economy.

Since making these investments, we’ve been able to move forward with the $810 million Marquette Interchange project, which continues to be on-time and on-budget. The Department of Transportation is working with local communities to create plans to rebuild the I-94 North-South Corridor starting in 2009, from the Illinois State Line to Milwaukee as the gateway to Wisconsin’s economy.

The state is also working with local officials to continue our progress on commuter rail service from Kenosha to Racine to Milwaukee. And the state has stepped forward to help finance the new Milwaukee County Transit Service on Canal Street to promote economic growth in the Menomonee Valley.

These investments are paying off. Since I took office, we’ve created more than 170,000 jobs, increased exports by more than 50 percent and earned Wisconsin a spot on the national economic honor roll. A new report showed that people are voting with their feet as well. As neighboring states lost population, our state actually grew by more than 250,000 people.

We’ve seen tangible examples of this growth in Milwaukee County. But now, we need to take the next step forward to continue growth in the economic epicenter of our state.

That’s why I directed the Department of Transportation to begin work on the Zoo Interchange project by 2012 – four years ahead of schedule – and begin planning for this construction immediately.

The Zoo Interchange project will be one of the largest road projects in Wisconsin history, bringing with it thousands of good paying, family-supporting jobs and an economic boost for the region. Jump-starting the Zoo Interchange is a vital step forward in our effort to grow Wisconsin’s economy.

This directive takes a much more responsible approach to the Zoo Interchange than the plan that was put forward by the legislature in the last budget. Their plan took too long, cost too much and would have come at the expense of our schools.

Now, we’re going to do this project the right way — faster than planned, and without stealing one penny away from our schools. We’ve reduced the price tag for the initial work by more than $10 million from what the Legislature proposed — making a tremendous impact on the local and regional economy.

Moving ahead with the project this way holds a more responsible, long-term vision for the region, by protecting the funding for our schools, and upgrading the infrastructure that lays at the foundation of economic development.

Editor’s note: This column was written by Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle in response to a BizTimes Daily news report about an organization that was critical of Doyle’s plan to allocate funds for the Zoo Interchange reconstruction.

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