A provision in the new state budget could make it very difficult to build bike paths, bike lanes and even sidewalks around Wisconsin. Local 5’s Kris Schuller spoke with two area lawmakers who want the proposal removed.
Each day thousands of bicyclists and pedestrians use recreation trails in the state. But Representative Eric Genrich (D-Green Bay) fears a provision in the new budget will now make it harder to create these routes for safe travel.
“It’s hard to understand exactly why this provision was included in the budget,” said Rep. Genrich.
That provision – by an unknown author and approved last week – prohibits local jurisdictions and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation from condemning property “for the purpose of establishing or extending recreational trails, bicycle ways or lanes or pedestrian ways.”
“These are the amenities that many empty nesters and millennials are looking for in their communities and the provision on the budget will makes it that more difficult to create these things,” Genrich said.
“We’ve thrown the baby out with the bathwater here,” said Peter Flucke of We Bike, Etc.
Biking advocate Flucke says condemnation is sometimes necessary for the public good. He wants the provision removed.
“It’s a really valuable tool for improving transportation overall – not just for bicyclists and pedestrians, but for everybody,” Flucke said.
Steve Grenier, director of Green Bay’s Public Works Department, says the city seldom uses condemnation – instead working directly with property owners. But under this provision they appear to hold the upper hand.
“Potentially what it could do is it could eliminate the ability to complete certain projects,” Grenier said.
“This could have a damaging effect on local governments trying to put sidewalks in, finish up bike trails, etc.,” said Senator Rob Cowles (R-Green Bay).
And now Sen. Cowles has written Governor Walker asking he veto this provision which never had a public hearing.
“When you put something into the budget via the Finance Committee, only those 16 are voting and the rest of us are being pushed to go along with it no matter what,” said Sen. Cowles.
“It’s a bit of a head scratcher honestly,” Genrich said.