WCHA and WisDOT Launch Innovative Reform: Low Risk Bridge Delivery Pilot to Streamline Program, Reduce Costs
August 6, 2019 | wcha-admin
The Wisconsin County Highway Association and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) have launched a new pilot program, the Local Bridge Improvement Assistance Program, Low-Risk Delivery Pilot.
“We’re maximizing the return on taxpayers’ investment in our transportation infrastructure and found a way to overcome obstacles to push forward with a meaningful reform,” said Daniel J. Fedderly, executive director of the Wisconsin County Highway Association, which represents Wisconsin’s 72 county highway and public works departments.
WCHA has advocated for the removal of federal funds from local projects, a concept called Fed-Seg Swap. The idea is to transfer federal dollars out of some simple local projects and place those federal dollars on complicated projects that should have more significant reporting and regulatory requirements. These federal funds are replaced with state funds.
Fed-Seg Swap language was passed into law last 2017-19 legislative session. However, actual streamlining never occurred as a process was never put forward by WisDOT. Then, the legislature limited the ability to swap these funds in the lame duck extraordinary session last December.
This pilot program now provides state only funding on several bridges. The initial phase of the pilot includes 16 projects already approved for the WisDOT Local Bridge Improvement Program.
“Working with Secretary Thompson and the staff at WisDOT, we have made progress,” said Fedderly. “We know the ultimate goal is to streamline a much larger share of projects than 16 bridges, but this is significant, real-world progress we have been unable to realize until now.”
Fedderly says that when state and federal funds enter the mix so too does a myriad of rules, reporting requirements and regulations that unnecessarily drive up the cost of many simple, straight-forward projects.
“Highway commissioners consistently advocate to streamline project delivery process in order to achieve time and cost savings,” said Fedderly. “While this pilot won’t solve the overall transportation funding issue for local governments, it will help us ensure that every taxpayer dollar is used efficiently.”
The $5 million pilot is expected to run through the 2022 state fiscal year. Eligible bridges are limited to those with simpler needs, such as deck replacement or full replacement of a single-span structure with no piers. Qualifying bridges also must have no major concerns with environmental impacts, right of way, railroad or utility location. Projects can be removed from eligibility if such concerns become evident in the design process.