Since the turn of the new year, the Wisconsin Bike Fed has been hard at work advocating for a state budget that best addresses the needs of the cycling, pedestrian, and trails communities across Wisconsin. Once the second most bicycle-friendly state in the country, according to the League of American Bicyclists, Wisconsin has dropped to #29 in recent years. The biggest reason for this drop: compared to other states, a relative lack of funding for non-motorized transportation alternatives. Wisconsin ranks second-to-last in the country for funding in this category. Meanwhile, despite this funding gap, the cycling industry brings in around $2.5 billion to Wisconsin’s economy each year, underscoring the importance of walking, biking and trail infrastructure to our state’s prosperity.
As an organization that represents cycling, pedestrian, and trail advocates from around the state, it is important for us to continue to push for positive change on behalf of the Wisconsin bike and trail communities. Our goals were to successfully advocate for increased cycling and trails funding broadly, increase available funds within the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP), create a small state-sponsored fund to assist rural communities with project costs, and capture funding for the repair of the Stewart Tunnel. Last week, Governor Evers signed Act 19, otherwise known as the 2023-2025 Wisconsin State Budget Bill, after using his line-item veto power to make adjustments to the version of the bill that passed the Senate and Assembly chambers. It is safe to say that we are very happy with the final version of the 2023-2025 Wisconsin State Budget, and we are very excited to share a list of wins for the cycling and trails community included in the budget:
- Expected increase in base TAP funding to $18 million annually
- The Department of Transportation, as it has in the past, will present a plan to the Joint Committee on Finance for the allocation of federal highway aid for the next two years. Under federal law, Wisconsin’s allocation for TAP may not fall below $18 million, annually, but the committee will need to approve this as part of its overall review of how federal aid dollars will be spent over the next two years. Regarding TAP, the committee will have little flexibility.
- $6.6 million in one-time funds to repair and re-open the Stewart Tunnel on the Badger State Trail, which has been closed since 2019
- $9.75 million in funding for trail maintenance and repairs across the state
- $25 million in bridge replacement/repair funding that will impact cycling routes across the state
- Reauthorization of the Wisconsin Office of Outdoor Recreation for another two years
Though we fell short of seeing the creation of a small, state-sponsored project fund for rural communities, we still have plenty to celebrate with the progress we made this budget cycle, and our work on the rural communities fund is not done! Our continued goal is for Wisconsin to invest about 2.2% (national average) of its federal transportation budget on walking, biking and trail infrastructure. In recent years, our state has only been spending about 0.6% of its federal transportation budget on non-motorized transportation. We believe that making further investments in transportation alternatives will ensure that Wisconsin maximizes the economic, health, safety and other quality of life benefits of trail, walking and biking infrastructure.
We believe that this State Budget will help to advance cycling and trails opportunities, infrastructure, and safety across the state. We are thankful for the hard work of Governor Evers, state legislators, and local officials for crafting this budget with cycling communities and trail users in mind. Additionally, we are very grateful for our partners and advocates around the state for using their voices to communicate the needs of their local cycling and trails communities to their state and local electeds. We couldn’t achieve our goals without you!
If you have any other questions regarding state budget specifics, please contact Government Affairs Manager Collin Mead (email@example.com). You can also view a breakdown of the entire 2023-2025 State Budget via the “Budget Papers” drafted by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau here. Stay tuned into the newsletter for more advocacy opportunities to come – we are keeping our pedal to the metal!