DOT says not enough funding for reconstruction of Zoo Interchange

MADISON -- The Wisconsin Department of Transportation's budget doesn't have enough money for the scheduled reconstruction of the Zoo Interchange -- one of the state's busiest interchange. Now, lawmakers are discussing how to solve the shortfall, and it could mean more money out of the taxpayers' pockets.

The Zoo Interchange is notorious for bumper-to-bumper traffic at peak drive times. The busy interchange is set to be rebuilt at a cost of $1.7 billion. 

Now, the Wisconsin DOT says there's not enough money, and the project could be delayed up to two years.

Gov. Scott Walker says he wants to find a way to keep the construction on schedule. 

"It's important not only for southeastern Wisconsin. It's important for the rest of the state as well," Gov. Walker said.

State Rep. Fred Clark (D - Sauk City) says the DOT is right to delay the project.

"We can't spend hundreds of millions of new dollars on the Zoo Interchange and also maintain the existing system that we have without new revenue -- that's just the reality," Clark said.

"The bottom line is we've got to find a way to find the resources, find the revenue to do that.  I don't want to take from projects elsewhere across the state," Gov. Walker said.

There are three potential solutions to keep the project on track: lawmakers could transfer money from the general fund to the transportation fund, meaning education or health spending could be cut. 

"It would be morally wrong to take money away from those critical programs to build highways," Clark said.

Lawmakers could choose to delay other road projects around the state and focus on the Zoo Interchange instead, or they could choose to increase revenue through new tolls or a gas tax.

A two-year delay could increase the cost of the project by $50 million. Both Democrats and Republicans agree that's a road no one wants to take.

The project was set to begin in 2018.