Statement of Madison Mayor Paul Soglin on Funding for County Highways AB and BB
Monday, July 16, 2018 - 3:54pm
For eight years, the City has been requesting County Highways AB and BB be reconstructed, and has been willing to contribute to the cost. Now, the Federal government has also added funds to help pay for the reconstruction. The issue is not the need for repair, nor who should pay for the repair. The issue is who should be responsible for the future costs.
At the risk of stating the obvious, County Highway AB and County Highway BB are county highways and serve inter-community traffic. Madison taxpayers, as county residents, contribute to the funding that maintains highways throughout Dane County. However, the County has issued an ultimatum. Unless the City takes over all future responsibility for these highways, the county will not undertake their reconstruction. This demand is not based on any transportation-based criterion. It is simply an attempt by the county to unilaterally divest from all highways in cities and villages.
Under state law, a county highway (like any other service) cannot be transferred unless both governments agree. Instead, the county has used each highway construction project as a hostage. If a city or village refuses to take over all future responsibility, the county simply forgoes the project. This dynamic has been playing out for years to the great frustration of cities and villages across the county.
Two years ago we met with the county supervisors to discuss our objections to the county’s categorical demand on these projects. The policy demand remained. Subsequently, we requested that the county join with state and local governments in an independent study of the appropriate jurisdiction of all roads. The county refused. Astoundingly, with a funding deadline upon us, the county is now casting this as a failure of the city to compromise.
If the county thinks this is an important project, and wants to move forward collaboratively, then it should drop its irrelevant non-germane demands. There is no reason the issue of jurisdiction must be addressed right now other than for the county to use the reconstruction project as leverage. We are prepared to move forward without the additional conditions. Until then, it is the county’s instance on shedding its future responsibility that is the only thing delaying these projects.
The issue is not the importance of the project itself, but the possible loss of federal funds. If the county continues with its unreasonable demands, the project cannot go forward and the federal funding could be lost altogether.
To date, the City has spent almost one million dollars on these projects in order to get them where they are ready to receive bids for construction. We have asked the County to program these projects in 2010 and every year following without success to date. We are pleased that the projects are now a priority for the County. We ask again for the County to remove the jurisdictional transfer requirement so that these projects can proceed.
The City has been, and remains, committed to constructing these transportation corridors, and serving the residents, businesses and schools on these County Highways.
- Katie Crawley(608) 266-4611