Transportation secretary discusses project funding at stop in Lake Hallie

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LAKE HALLIE, Wis. (WEAU)-- When it comes to transportation spending, the leader of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation says it's a balancing act. Transportation Secretary David Ross made the comment Thursday afternoon at a roundtable discussion in Lake Hallie.

Secretary Ross talked with business leaders on everything from the governor's transportation budget to funding for public transportation, airport funding and passenger rail service in the Chippewa Valley during the event at Mid-State Truck Service.

“The governor has proposed a very good budget for the state. Increasing local and state road aids and maintenance by over $76 million,” Ross said.

Ross says under the governor’s budget, more focus will be put toward funding road projects across the state versus funding expensive "mega projects" in the Milwaukee and Madison areas.

“The governor is realizing that there are needs throughout the entire state and his budget responds to that issue,” he added.

When pressed on the topic of passenger rail service from the Chippewa Valley to the twin cities, Secretary Ross says the state's main priority is roads.

“The focus is on roads right now and that's where the greatest need is. That is the direction we want to move forward on in the biennial budget,” Ross explained.

Local economic development groups say the focus back on small communities is promising, and they remain committed in fighting for more funding in western Wisconsin.

“We need to have our fair share and bring that back from some of the bigger cities. Let’s take care of the roads first and then focus on public transportation and everything seems to be coming after that when the resources are available,” Chippewa County Economic Development Corporation president Charlie Walker said.

Earlier this month, the Joint Finance Committee dropped the governor's transportation spending proposal from the budget, which signals they will likely write their budget from a blank slate. The finance committee is slated to start voting on parts of the budget next month.

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