Shortfall in trans. fund could delay critical freeway projects

MADISON (WITI) -- Wisconsin has big plans for fixing its highways but no way to pay for them. A massive shortfall in the state's transportation fund means big road projects in the Milwaukee area won't get done anytime soon.

The state's Joint Finance Committee (JFC) addressed the issue during a public hearing on Tuesday afternoon, April 30th. Officials say the transportation fund has a $63.4 million shortfall over the next two years.

"I don't know how we can do all the projects when we have such a big deficit.  We just don't have the money," said Republican Senator Alberta Darling, co-chair of the JFC.

The JFC is reviewing Gov. Scott Walker's plan that would save millions by delaying construction on the Ryan Road Interchange in the I-94 widening project, delaying the Zoo Interchange work, and decreasing payments for maintenance on the Amtrak Hiawatha train line from Milwaukee to Chicago.

Sen. Darling says she knows the delays will be unpopular.

"They are, but when you ask, who do you want to pay for this? Do you want to increase taxes? You'll find people who say no. Do you want to increase the gas tax? Do you want to increase revenues in other ways?  I think most people would say no," said Darling.

"To me the idea of smart tolling makes a whole lot more sense, because it's really based on the miles that are driven, and it would capture some of the out-of-state travel," said St. Rep. Fred Clark (D).

Rep. Clark says part of the reason for the shortfall is the decline in revenue from the gas tax.

"Cars are more efficient, people are driving less, so we're not going to be able to maintain the system we have, let alone expand it unless we find a way to pay for it," said Clark.

Monitor FOX6 News and for updates on this developing story.