Madison Mayor Paul Soglin criticized on Thursday a provision in the state budget that could hinder the ability for municipalities to expand or construct sidewalks, bicycle lanes and bicycle trails.
A provision added to the 2017-2019 state budget denies cities, villages and towns the ability to use condemnation — acquiring private property from unwilling sellers for public use — to expand or build new sidewalks, bicycle lanes and trails. Soglin said at a news conference the measure would put Madison and Wisconsin residents in danger by denying municipalities the power to create dedicated pedestrian and bicycle rights-of-way.
“It’s bizarre thinking. That’s the best way I can describe it,” he said. “This is nothing short of ridiculous or cruel for that matter.”
Soglin said the provision, if signed into law, could affect millions of dollars worth of current and future construction projects in Madison.
He highlighted four planned road construction projects totaling almost $40 million that involve new sidewalks or bicycle paths.
They include sidewalks and bike lanes on Buckeye Road from Monona Drive to Stoughton Road; sidewalks and bike lanes on Cottage Grove Road from Interstate 39/90 to Sprecher Road; sidewalks, bike lanes and a multi-use path on Pleasant View Road from Mineral Point Road to U.S. Highway 14; and a multi-use path along Atwood Avenue from Fair Oaks Avenue to Cottage Grove Road.
“There will be more roads on this list that will be affected, and this is what our Legislature is up to,” Soglin said.
It is unclear who introduced the provision, but it was added to the budget during a meeting of the state Legislature’s budget-writing Joint Finance Committee last week.
The city intends to file an open records request to get any correspondence about the provision and “the special interest that’s going to be at work here,” Soglin said.
“We really have not learned and had a good explanation from the perpetrators of this as to their motivation and what they’re trying to solve,” he said.
Requests for comment from Republican leadership on the committee were not immediately returned.
Soglin is considering a 2018 gubernatorial run to challenge Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who has all but confirmed his intention to seek a third term. In June, Soglin said he would make a decision around Labor Day, Sept. 4.
“It’ll be coming pretty soon,” he said of an announcement.
On Tuesday, the City Council will introduce and potentially vote on a resolution expressing concern about the provision, Soglin said.
He estimates the city uses condemnation several times a year, and said it’s an important tool Madison can wield as it continues to add curbs, gutters and sidewalks to areas that developed as towns but have since been annexed by the city.
One property owner holding out could have major consequences, especially in rural areas where sidewalks aren’t as available, Soglin said.
“It’s like having a missing tooth in a smile,” he said.