RACINE COUNTY — The possible insolvency of the federal Highway Trust Fund has the attention of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.
DOT officials say state projects, such as the Highway 20 interchange reconstruction in Racine County, will not be immediately affected but could be at risk in the long term if Congress does not reach a deal to keep highway and transit aid flowing to states.
Federal officials have warned that by the first week in August, the fund will no longer have enough money to cover promised aid to states.
The Wisconsin DOT expects to keep projects on track at least through the end of September, spokeswoman Peg Schmitt said.
“Certainly if issues aren’t dealt with ... in the longer term, there would definitely be impacts related to keeping projects on schedule,” Schmitt said.
The DOT hasn’t yet pinpointed which projects could be at risk of delays, she said. In Racine County, the state is in the midst of a two-year project to reconstruct the Highway 20 interchange and is rebuilding the Highway C bridge over Interstate 94.
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In the next several years, the DOT plans to reconstruct other interchanges in Racine County as part of the Interstate 94 north-south freeway project stretching from General Mitchell International Airport to the Illinois state line.
The state gets about $1.68 billion in federal funding, which accounts for about 23.7 percent of DOT revenue, Schmitt said.
If the Highway Trust Fund goes broke, Wisconsin could be looking at a federal funding cut of about $783 million in the next fiscal year, according to Carolyn Bonifas Kelly, associate director of research and communications for Trip, a Washington D.C.-based transportation research organization.
In addition to affecting current projects, the state’s ability to plan long-term projects is hampered if it does not know how much federal aid it will receive, Bonifas Kelly said.
U.S. House and Senate committees this week advanced competing proposals to address the insolvency. The House Ways and Means Committee, of which U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., is a member, passed an $11 billion plan that would shore up the fund through May 2015. The Senate Finance Committee also approved an $11 billion measure, with key differences on the source of the money.
“The Highway Trust Fund is going broke, and Congress needs to fix it,” said Ryan, whose district includes Racine County, in a statement to The Journal Times. “To keep drivers safe and promote economic growth, we ultimately need a long-term solution for our transportation programs.”