WI transportation secretary defends budget, answers questions - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

WI transportation secretary defends budget, answers questions

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WAUSAU (WAOW) -- Wisconsin's secretary of transportation stopped in Wausau Thursday afternoon to defend the governor's budget.

Mark Gottlieb says the new budget, which spends $6.5 billion on transportation over the next two years, is good for the state. He says the money will fund major projects like widening 1-39 from Illinois to Madison, but that most of the money will help maintain the roads the state already has.

"Our bread and butter is really preserving and maintaining the condition of the 12,000-mile state highway network," said Gottlieb.

Gottlieb also says the new budget will help repay money to the transportation fund that lawmakers took over the last few years to help balance the general budget.

"The governor had made a commitment in the campaign that he was not going to do those raids anymore," said Gottlieb. "There are none of those raids in the budget. In fact, we have started the process to the tune of about $150 million of paying that money back."

Several of Newsline 9's Facebook friends also submitted questions for Gottlieb.  Nate Nelson asked, "Why don't they quit wasting money on these stupid roundabouts?"

Gottlieb said the state is currently conducting a study with UW-Madison to see how its 100+ roundabouts are working. But in the meantime, Gottlieb says roundabouts are important.

"Roundabouts have been shown to be considerably safer than other types of signalized intersections," said Gottlieb. "They just reduce injury and fatality accidents enormously."

Another Newsline 9 Facebook friend, Donna Bates, told Gottlieb to "mow the sides of the roads." She said it makes the state ugly and contributes to the amount of deer killed.

Gottlieb agreed the state has not maintained its highways very well.

"It's been a challenge for us over the years," said Gottlieb. "We don't think we've been investing enough in maintenance."

But, Gottlieb added, the new state budget increased highway maintenance funding by $25 million.

Finally, Newsline 9 Facebook friend Paula Hersant-Yarie asked Gottlieb why the state wanted to "make road projects that cost over $100,000 be done by private contractors?"

Gottlieb said that's "a policy decision" the Legislature made in the new budget. He said it's about making sure there is a fair system of competition.

"You want to make sure that you're doing work in the most cost-effective way possible," said Gottlieb. "But on the other hand, you want to sort of have a dividing line between work that really should properly and appropriately be done by private contractors."

Gottlieb also said the practice of hiring private contractors helps ensure the public sector isn't unfairly taking work away from private sector competitors.

Online Reporter: Daniel Woodruff

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