Germantown rejects regional transportation funding proposal

June 3, 2014

Germantown — The wait may finally be over for a decision to be made on how Germantown will proceed with plans to upgrade Donges Bay Road.

The village board on June 2 unanimously voted to reject a May 27 proposal by the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission's Advisory Committee on Transportation System Planning and Programming for the Milwaukee Urbanized Area that could have potentially funded 45 percent of the estimated project costs.

Under the proposal, Germantown could qualify for $1.83 million of Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration Surface Transportation Program assistance for the estimated $4.11 million project, which Village President Dean Wolter called a "slap in the face."

"Germantown is always going to be the bridesmaid and never the bride," said Wolter, pointing to lack of representation on the committee as part of the problem. "That's unfortunate because we've followed the rules and put all those things in place and went step by step to ensure we were doing everything properly. With that we were still refused. It is such a stacked deck of cards that does not have interest in our favor."

Germantown initially pursued an split in funding that would have had the village paying just 20 percent under a different set of selection criteria, which were modifed last year by the Advisory Committee responsible for the administration of state Surface Transportation Program funds. The changes that were made to the procedures and criteria the committee uses to evaluate and ultimately select what projects receive funding led the committee to deny funding in October, which prompted village officials to formally object to the decision.

Even under the current proposal, Village Engineer Brionne Bischke said the committee is not set to make a final decision until its regular meeting this fall. Even then, he said it's not likely the village would get a boost in funding.

"It's a high-stakes poker game," he said. "We'd be asking for more money, one of the other communites' (projects) would have to get dropped...the odds are not looking good."

So instead of continuing to wait out a final decision by SEWRPC, the board voted to pursue the project, which will fix the heavily deteriorated road from Division Road to Fond du Lac Avenue, with its own funds.

Spending an estimated $1.8 million, the cost to the village will be significantly less than the estimated $4.11 million cost to reconstruct the road to federal highway standards, because the village can use local standards that offer greater flexibility. Construction will likely also be split into two phases, including work to the western portion in 2015 and the eastern portion in 2016.

"We were promised 80 percent," Wolter said. "To go anything below that is not worth it to me. We keep waiting. Well, I'm done waiting."

The decision was made with the support of a number of neighboring residents, who during the citizen input portion of the meeting urged board members to consider using village funds rather than working toward a deal with SEWRPC.

"We don't want or need a huge project," said Germantown resident Holly Basting. "We moved here for a rural community atmosphere and we want it left as it is."

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