Let’s Kill the Budget Provision That Could Kill Trail Projects

Last week the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee passed a complicated 19 page motion making changes to the state transportation budget.

Buried in that document was item 17, which reads,

“Prohibit any entity with the power of condemnation from using that power for the purpose of establishing or extending recreational trails, bicycle ways or lanes, or pedestrian ways.”

Local governments have used the power of condemnation or the potential for its use to get trails built. Without it one landowner could essentially stop an entire project. Nobody wants to use condemnation, but just as it is sometimes necessary as a last resort to build roads, it’s necessary as a legal tool to build facilities for cyclists and pedestrians.

Under this provision a local government or the state DOT could not use eminent domain even to widen a roadway if it included bike lanes or sidewalks!

There’s simply no reason for this power to be left in place for highways but be eliminated for facilities serving cyclists and pedestrians.

Worse, no explanation or justification was offered for the change. We don’t even know which legislator wanted it.

This is the kind of policy item that has no place in a massive state budget that should deal with taxation and spending only.

This is bad public policy in itself made worse by a process that holds no one accountable and forces no one to explain why it should happen.

The budget will be voted on this week by the legislature.

Please email your state representative and senator and ask them to eliminate this item. You can put it in your own words or cut and paste the message below.

As my legislator I’m asking that you remove the budget provision added by Joint Finance that would prohibit the use of condemnation for recreational trails, bicycle lanes and pedestrian ways. This is a policy item that doesn’t belong in the budget. It was added without public input and by a legislator who has not been identified. While no one wants to use condemnation, it is a necessary last resort to get bike and pedestrian projects done just as it is needed for road projects. Without this power projects could be held up, made more expensive or abandoned altogether.

Don’t know how your legislators are? You can find them here.

About Dave Cieslewicz, Executive Director

Dave Cieslewicz served two terms as mayor of Madison where he set the city on a path for Platinum status as one of the best biking cities in North America. Before that he started his own nonprofit, 1000 Friends of Wisconsin, which focuses on land use and transportation policy. He has been an adjunct professor at the UW Madison's Department of Urban and Regional Planning where he teaches a class called Bikes, Pedestrians and Cities. He pronounces his name chess LEV ich, but nobody else does.

10 thoughts on “Let’s Kill the Budget Provision That Could Kill Trail Projects

  1. If the state doesn’t want to allow municipalities to use eminent domain to widen street right of ways to allow for all the traffic lanes plus bike/ped facilities, then municipalities should strongly consider not adding the extra, and often times redundant and unnecessary, traffic lanes, and add the bike lanes anyways.

    Of course we will continue to be painted as selfish bicyclists because we want to ask that one of the many lanes dedicated to motor vehicle traffic be removed in favor of the street’s first bike/ped facilities.

  2. Makes no sense as a policy nor provision. Slippery, stinky political maneuver at best. Well then, if this is our model, I’ll further ask for adding a few $B for laying fiber optics corner to corner across the state as my personal agenda item! Let’s make moving bits and bytes transportation. Dave, what % of the total state budget is transportation? And of that, what is specifically allocated to non-motorized transportation? Thanks for sharing. Keep up with those skunks!

    • At this point all we’ve seen is the motion language that we quoted in the blog. Have not see the actual statutory language yet.

  3. Per the League of Municipalities, this is taken from page 395 of Assembly Substitute Amendment 1 to AB 64, the version of the budget approved by the JFC.

    SECTION 585g. 32.015 of the statutes is created to read:
    32.015 Limitations. Property may not be acquired by condemnation to
    establish or extend a recreational trail; a bicycle way, as defined in s. 340.01 (5s); a
    bicycle lane, as defined in s. 340.01 (5e); or a pedestrian way, as defined in s. 346.02
    (8) (a).

    As of Wednesday night, the JFC’s Budget proposal passed the Assembly with only technical corrections, and is now headed for a Senate vote. Contact your State Senator, and likewise contact the Governor’s Office to urge a line item veto of this provision.

    Greg Buckley, City Manager, Two Rivers

    • Thanks Greg. Right now this provision is being actively opposed by the Bike Fed, the League of Municipalities and several individual jurisdictions, the League of American Bicyclists, the Rails to Trails Conservancy and People for Bikes.

  4. I am opposed to item 17 in the transportation budget and want it removed. I consider it short-sighted relative to environmental issues, long-term planning, and safety for the biking public. Remove please!!

  5. In northern Wisconsin (Vilas County) bicycle trail development is an economically important activity, bringing in tourists who spend money and help to support our economy. Why would anyone want to hamper our ability to bring in tourist dollars to help our struggling economy? Bicycling is a silent sport which does not pollute the air. Getting bicycles off the roads does nothing but enhance bicycle safety.

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