Bigger transportation pie, but a smaller slice for bikes

The 2013-2015 budget (AB40) Governor Walker submitted to the State Assembly  yesterday proposes to increase the biennial transportation budget from $5.7 billion to $6.4 billion. Hold on though, even though the pie just got a lot bigger, the slice for people who ride bikes is significantly smaller. I have consolidated the many line items that make up each program into the simple table below. I also added the total amount of money that the federal transportation budget makes available to Wisconsin.


Click to open pdf of image


You can see that the federal transportation budget has made a little more than $89 million available to Wisconsin in funding categories that can be used to pay for bicycle facilities. You can also see that the governor’s budget only proposes to spend about $51 million (compared to nearly $70 million in the last budget). So where is the remaining $38 million going? The federal transportation budget allows states to shift 50% of the Transportation Alternatives funds to highway projects. While you can’t exactly trace the dollars, I’m sure we are not giving that money back to the feds.

Another big problem in the budget is the language that allows WisDOT to take back money for Transportation Alternatives Program projects if the municipalities don’t spend the money within four years. That same rule is not in place for road project funds. While everyone wants to get projects done quickly, the red tape of very confusing and sometimes contradictory WisDOT forms along with the new delays caused by the Master Consultant project review process often means it takes longer than four years to get a project going. I could give you countless “Parks and Rec” kind of examples of things that slow project approval down.

If you are a bike person, someone who cares about transit and walking, or even if you are a strict user-pay user-benefit fiscal conservative, there is a lot not to like in this transportation budget: from increased borrowing, transfers from the general fund, transit fund transfers to the general fund, and selling power plants to pay down transportation, etc.

But the bottom line to bike folks is that even though there is a lot more money in the proposed two-year state transportation budget, this budget not only shorts us the money the feds are offering, it allocate even less money than was in the last state budget. That is quite a double whammy.

If you care about this, it is extremely important to remember that the state legislature still has until some time around July to modify and approve the budget. That gives advocates, business leaders and civic leader who care about our treasured bicycle assets time to talk to their elected representatives in the Senate and Assembly to convince them to restore the full funding for programs that fund bicycle projects.

The easiest way to effect change is to call, email or meet with the people who represent you in the State Capitol and tell them that you would like them to spend every one of the comparatively few dollars the feds give Wisconsin for bike projects on bike projects. It is also critically important that people who care about funding for bicycle projects come to the Bike Fed’s Lobby Day, April 9th. We do a lot of the work for you by setting up meetings for constituents in each district. We also give you clear, detailed information so you can make an intelligent ask.

In the mean time, we are working to set up a meeting with the Governor and key legislative leaders to explain all the good that bicycling does for Wisconsin. From the nearly $2 billion economic impact to the quality of life  benefits that make our state a great place to live and an attractive place to do business, few things have as high a return on investment as bicycling.

So please, contact your elected state officials and tell them you bike and you vote, and stay tuned here for updates.

About Dave Schlabowske, Deputy Director

Dave was the first full-time staff member hired to open the Bike Fed's Milwaukee office 15 years ago. A former professional photographer and life-long Milwaukee resident, Dave likes wool, long rides, sour beer, and a good polar vortex once in a while.

5 thoughts on “Bigger transportation pie, but a smaller slice for bikes

  1. I’ve heard some WIDOT staffers say, current regulations for roadway planning and design mandate incorporation or at least, consideration, of non-motorized accommodations in the base project and this will compensate for reduced dedicated funding. Any truth to that? If so, to what extent will we see improvements? Are the dedicated funds more useful to communities when they are not able to make use of WIDOT project funds?

    • Roger,

      To some extent, the Trans 75, or Complete Streets Law, that the Bike Fed got passed a few years ago has definitely helped get bicycle “accommodations” included on more resurfacing and reconstruction projects. That is not enough though, since it does not allow for the construction of any new projects not associated with a road project. So no new trails, bridges, etc. The other problem is a bicycle accommodation is not necessarily a bike lane or even a paved shoulder with a stripe. It might just be a wide curb lane.

      Trans 75 is very important, and has proven to make a difference already, but communities still need Capital Programs. Only Madison has one for bike projects, so diverting federal dollars from bike programs to highways will have a big impact at the local level.

  2. Does Governor Walker care about anyone except people that drive vehicles? Yes, I do drive however I also ride a
    bike. For me riding “on the trails gets allows me to be with nature”. That is the main reason that I do ride to “get
    away from the noise and other things that happen in cities and when driving. Even as basic as the Hank-Aaron
    trail or any of the off road trails in Waukesha county does allow a person a chance to be in a park like setting.
    The best is the Glacier-Drumlin trail west of Dousman thru Jefferson county. I would like to help people
    “protect the rights of bike riders and others that enjoy being off of the street and in a peace full setting that only a
    off road trail can provide”. How could I help in the Milwaukee area to make this more of a reality?

  3. ..”even though the pie just got a lot bigger, the slice for people who ride bikes is significantly smaller.”

    Walker’s fellow money-makers don’t make much $$$ from the bike industry and bikers. Why care about bikers? It’s easy to legally pursue – and get – I-don’t-care-about-anyone-but-myself stuff when people in power have billions of dollars backing up their selfish desires.

  4. All the more reason we need to show up for Lobby day. At times it seems like we may be talking to a brick wall, and at times we are indeed, but we need to keep trying. If we are not going to get involved and get vocal we have lost before we even start. At a minimum we should be contacting our reps and stating our case.

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