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Wisconsin State Officials Propose to Delay Major Zoo Interchange Project

Thu January 17, 2013 - National Edition
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MADISON, Wis. (AP) State officials are proposing to delay reconstruction on the busiest interchange in Wisconsin: the Zoo Interchange near Milwaukee.

The idea was detailed in a budget request released in November from the Department of Transportation after years of Gov. Scott Walker criticizing his predecessor for not prioritizing work on the interchange.

Transportation Secretary Mark Gottlieb said the completion date for the project may need to be pushed back if more money isn’t put toward roads.

“This is a live-within-our-means budget,” Gottlieb said. “To be clear, this is not something we are happy to be proposing.”

Under the department’s request, seven other major projects would face delays of one to two years, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. If the budget picture does not improve, a planned expansion of Interstate 39/90 also could be delayed by two years.

Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie did not say whether the governor would agree to a delay, but noted the budget request is just a starting point for discussion.

“The governor will introduce a complete budget next year, and one of his priorities will be investing in the state’s infrastructure,” Werwie said in a statement.

Walker and lawmakers will decide early next year whether to delay the Zoo Interchange or keep it on schedule by either putting off other projects or seeking new money for highways. Gottlieb warned that sticking to the original schedule without new money would mean further delay for other projects around the state.

The proposal could meet some resistance in the Legislature, which starting in January will be controlled by Walker’s fellow Republicans.

“The Zoo Interchange should have been done a few years ago. ... A delay again I don’t appreciate,” said Sen. Mary Lazich, R-New Berlin, a past chairwoman of the Senate Transportation Committee.

A two-year delay also would increase the project’s overall costs by nearly $50 million — about $40 million from inflation and $5 million to $8 million for additional maintenance.

A Zoo Interchange delay also could hamper plans to expand the Milwaukee Regional Medical Center, the area’s most comprehensive trauma center, according to the budget request. It also could affect the $500 million expansion to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Innovation Research Park, according to the DOT.

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