Interstate 39/90, I-39/90 traffic, State Journal generic file photo (copy)

Traffic moves along Interstate 39/90 near Cottage Grove Road.

A Wisconsin transportation panel tasked with overseeing major highway projects is scheduled to meet for the first time in five years next month. 

The 15-person commission, which has only convened six times in the last two decades and includes legislative members who have never attended a meeting, last assembled on Dec. 1, 2014, according to materials posted on its website

But Gov. Tony Evers announced Tuesday the Transportation Projects Commission will meet again on Dec. 6 in the state Capitol — a gathering that will include three new citizen members appointed by the governor. 

Evers said the meeting would give the body, tasked with approving major road plans for study and signing off on their enumeration for construction, an opportunity to review the status of key projects. 

“The state budget we approved earlier this year includes long-overdue investments in our comprehensive transportation system,” he said in a statement. "The TPC serves a vital role in fostering stronger communication between the state legislature, transportation stakeholders and the public about major highway projects."

The only project that's been enumerated without the commission's recommendations was Interstate 41 between Appleton and Green Bay, which was included in the budget, according to the Department of Transportation. 

The commission has gone long stretches without meeting in the past. While members got together once in 2014 and twice in 2011, the body went eight years — between December 2002 and December 2010 — without meeting, a length that covers the span of former Gov. Jim Doyle's time in office. 

Transportation Secretary Craig Thompson said in an interview his priority is ensuring that "there's good communication between the department and Legislature as to where we're at on things." 

The agenda for the latest meeting hasn't yet been released, but Thompson pointed to a number of active projects that would be discussed, including Interstate 39-90 between Madison and the Illinois line, the Verona Road project in Dane County and state Highway 23 between Fond du Lac and Sheboygan, among others. 

Lawmakers in recent years sought to make changes to the commission to ensure that it meet twice a year, allow its members to appoint a director, require that it annually complete a report, tweak its makeup and more.

But former Gov. Scott Walker took the language out of the 2017-19 state budget, writing in his veto message he opposed "the creation of the duplicative functions and duties that these sections create" and was against the "wasteful and unnecessary spending" they required. 

Thompson said the panel is intending to meet at least once a year, which he noted is the statutory requirement, and said it's possible the body could meet more frequently. 

The commission, created in 1983, is chaired by the governor and includes 10 lawmakers, three citizen members and the transportation secretary, who serves in a non-voting capacity. 

Currently, the body is one state representative short, and an Evers spokeswoman said the vacancy would be filled before the meeting next week. Thompson said a recommendation was made to Evers on Monday, who would then officially appoint the individual.

Meanwhile, Evers' three new citizen members for the board are Appleton Mayor Tim Hanna, Waukesha County Public Works Director Allison Bussler and Barron County Highway Commissioner Mark Servi. 

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