This page does not reflect the results of an updated financial analysis prepared for the amendment adopted December 2018 related to Foxconn. Please see the Amendments page for the results of the updated financial analysis.
FUNDING THE PLAN
VISION 2050 makes strong recommendations for improving and expanding the Region’s transportation system, with a particular emphasis on a significant expansion of public transit service in the Region. The ability to implement these recommendations requires adequate funding. Based on Commission staff estimates, which consider funding provided from all levels of government in recent years, the amount of funding required to support the plan’s transportation infrastructure and services is more than the amount of funding expected to be available in the future. In other words, existing funding sources are not adequate to construct, operate, and maintain the entire VISION 2050 transportation system.
Currently, the gap between funding and costs—identified in the funding comparison below—solely affects the public transit element. Because of this gap, the transit system recommended under VISION 2050 will not occur without additional funding. Current estimates indicate there should be enough revenue to fund the arterial street and highway and bicycle and pedestrian elements.
However, more funding may also be needed to implement the arterial street and highway element. This is because motor fuel taxes have not kept pace with inflation and the State has been borrowing for highway projects at higher-than-normal levels. Should the State choose to not continue borrowing at these higher levels, and not generate additional revenue to fund transportation, a funding gap would likely be identified for the arterial street and highway element in the near future.
HOW DOES THE PLAN REFLECT THE FUNDING GAP?
Staff prepared a financial analysis guided by Federal regulations that require the Region’s transportation plan to be “fiscally constrained.” This means only projects that can be funded with existing and expected funds can be included in the plan. The financial analysis must also assume that current legal restrictions on revenues are continued. For example, staff cannot assume that funding for highway projects can be flexed to transit projects, as that is not currently permitted by the State Legislature. To address the Federal requirements, staff identified the funded portion of the VISION 2050 transportation system, which is referred to as the Fiscally Constrained Transportation Plan (FCTP).
Due to an identified gap in funding, the public transit element cannot be implemented within expected funds. Therefore, the FCTP includes all VISION 2050 transportation elements except for public transit. Transit service under the FCTP, discussed and illustrated on page 49 of the Plan Summary, would actually be expected to decline rather than significantly increase as recommended under VISION 2050.
If there are notable future changes to funding for any of the transportation elements, the FCTP would be amended. For example, should a gap be identified for the arterial street and highway element, the FCTP would be modified to remove projects from the streets and highways element as necessary. Similarly, if additional transit funding is provided, projects would be added to the public transit element of the FCTP.
COST TO IMPLEMENT VISION 2050
Constructing, maintaining, and operating the public transit system, bicycle and pedestrian network, and arterial street and highway system included in VISION 2050 will cost an average of $1.07 billion (in 2015 constant dollars) each year between now and 2050.
REVENUES FROM EXISTING SOURCES
Federal, State, and local governments all contribute to the funding of the Region’s transportation system, and that is expected to continue in the future. Based on existing Federal Transit Administration funding programs, the construction and operation of the recommended public transit element is expected to generate an additional $63 million (in 2015 constant dollars) for the Region on average each year between now and 2050.
Unless the Region is able to identify a new source of funding for transit, there will be less transit service in 2050 than is currently provided in the Region. The Region’s existing transit service has already declined about 25 percent from the amount provided in the year 2000. The map on page 49 of the Plan Summary illustrates what the transit system could look like in 2050 after decades of further decline.
Public transit in our Region is uniquely funded compared to large metro areas across the Nation: it is largely dependent on Federal and State sources, with little ability to increase revenue locally as it competes with other public services for limited property tax dollars. Nearly every other comparably sized region in the Country has a tax or fee dedicated specifically to funding that region’s transit system.
In order for the Region’s public transit system to look like the system recommended by VISION 2050 (see the Public Transit page)—rather than the system on page 49 of the Plan Summary—a new funding source or combination of new funding sources will need to be identified to build and operate the system. The following page presents a number of different taxes or fees that could be considered—along with increasing State operating assistance for transit—to fund the recommended public transit investments. Many were proposed by the Wisconsin Commission on Transportation Finance and Policy (created by the Governor in the 2011-2013 State budget) and by the WisDOT Secretary in the 2015-2017 State budget.
WHERE WOULD NEW REVENUES BE GENERATED?
The approximate revenues generated by each tax/fee are estimated on a Region-wide basis. This is not intended to suggest any new taxes or fees should be levied uniformly across the Region. It may be more reasonable that a particular tax or fee only be levied in certain parts of the Region, or to vary the tax/fee level by county or community, given that the level of transit service recommended under VISION 2050 varies widely depending on the county or community. While service would be extended to many currently unserved areas, and VISION 2050 recommends providing shared-ride taxi service throughout the Region, much of the transit service would be concentrated in the urbanized parts of the Region (i.e., the Milwaukee, Waukesha, Racine, and Kenosha areas). Therefore, it may make sense to only implement a new tax or fee in these areas, or to have the new tax or fee be higher in these areas than in other parts of the Region.