The origin of the Department dates from 1911 when the State Legislature created a State Highway Commission which had authority over and supervised all highway developments funded by the State and providing the first State appropriations for highway construction and maintenance. Initially, such appropriation and designated fee income were held in the State's General Fund. In 1945, the Legislature segregated these sums in a Highway Fund.
The Department, through legislative and executive action, has evolved into an all-modes cabinet level transportation agency. Chapter 75, Laws of 1967, brought together into a new Department of Transportation, the Aeronautics Commission, the State Highway Commission and the Motor Vehicle Department. Chapter 29, Laws of 1977, abolished the State Highway Commission, transferring the Commission's authority to the Secretary of the Department. The Secretary is appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate. Effective with the 197981 biennial budget, the Governor's Office of Highway Safety was incorporated into the Department.
The Department's principal administrative offices are located at 4802 Sheboygan Avenue in Madison, Wisconsin. In addition, the Department has approximately 151 field offices located throughout the State.
Management and Staff
The executive functions of the Department are directed and supervised by the Secretary who is assisted by the Deputy Secretary.
CHARLES H. THOMPSON was appointed Secretary of Transportation in January 1992. Prior to his appointment, Mr. Thompson served for five years on the Wisconsin Public Service Commission, the last four as its Chairman. Before his service with the State, Mr. Thompson served as a teacher and principal in the Wisconsin Dells Area public schools, as well as being the owner and operator of several small businesses in the State. Mr. Thompson holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in secondary education from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, and he has completed his graduate work in school administration at the University of ColoradoBoulder and the University of WisconsinSuperior.
TERRENCE D. MULCAHY was appointed Deputy Secretary of the Department in November, 1992. Mr. Mulcahy began his WisDOT career in 1956 and has served in a number of engineering and management positions in highway planning, design and maintenance; the Major Highway Project Commission; consultant services office; statewide planning for air, water, and rail modes; and as executive assistant to the administrator of the Division of Motor Vehicles. A Major General in the United States Army Reserves, Mr. Mulcahy served as the ranking Army Reserve General Officer deployed into the war zone during the 199091 Persian Gulf War, where he commanded a 6,000-person Engineer Command. Mr. Mulcahy holds a Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering from the University of Wisconsin, and a Master of Science degree in Public Administration from Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania.
As of December 1, 1996 the Department had more than 3,800 employes, including 600 civil engineers. Of the Department's employes, approximately 80% are represented employes whose wage rates, fringe benefits, hours and conditions of employment are determined by collective bargaining agreements. These employes are assigned on the basis of occupational groupings to one of twelve Statewide bargaining units. By statute the contracts between the State and the individual bargaining units are two year contracts and coincide with the State's fiscal biennium. A contract agreement requires ratification by the members of the labor organization as well as approval of both houses of the Legislature and the Governor.
Contracts covering the period of July 1, 1995 to June 30, 1997 for the represented employes are in effect for all of the Department's represented employes. Each contract contains a no-strike or lock-out provision, and State Law specifies that it is illegal for a State employe "to engage in, induce, or encourage any employe to engage in a strike or a concerted refusal to work or perform their usual duties as employes."
The powers and duties of the Department are specified in the State statutes. Under the direction of the Secretary, these responsibilities are carried out by six Divisions within the Department and are summarized as follows:
|Streets and Highways||111,000 miles state and local||4.3 million vehicles|
3.6 million drivers
30 seaplane bases
17 scheduled airlines
|Rail||4,000 (estimated) route miles||10 railroads plus Amtrak service|
|Bus||63 urban transit systems|
|Water||12 Great Lakes ports|
3 Mississippi River ports
|Source: Wisconsin Department of Transportation|
The Department has many responsibilities concerning the development and use of highways and streets. The following is a list of its major areas of responsibility:
Under current State law, the Department may commence construction on a major highway project only if the project has been enumerated for construction in the Statutes. A major highway project is defined as a project which has a total cost of more than $5,000,000 and which involves one or more of the following: (i) constructing a new highway 2.5 miles or more in length, (ii) relocating 2.5 miles or more of an existing highway, (iii) adding one or more lanes, 5 miles or more to an existing highway or (iv) improving 10 miles or more of existing multi-lane divided highway to freeway standards.
Once a major highway project has been enumerated in the Statutes, the project is scheduled for construction by the Department. All state highway improvement projects, including authorized major highway projects, are scheduled in the Department's six-year highway improvement program. This six-year program, which is updated on a biennial basis, serves as the basic tool that translates the Department's long-term improvement plans into annual construction programs.
The Department and the State are currently authorized by statute to use Bond proceeds for right-of-way acquisition and construction of sixty-nine major highway projects and certain transportation administrative facilities. Of the sixty-nine enumerated major highway projects, the Department has completed construction on forty-one projects.
The Department currently has statutory authority to issue a total of $1.083 billion of Bonds excluding revenue bonds issued to refund outstanding revenue bonds to finance such Projects, bond reserves and costs of issuance. In order to finance the costs of completion of all major highway Projects, the Department may use moneys from the following sources: (i) existing and future Legislative authorization for the issuance of Bonds, (ii) Federal aid and (iii) moneys in the Transportation Fund which may be appropriated in the future for such purposes.
Highway Projects are evaluated and recommended to the Transportation Projects Commission by the Department based on the following established criteria: (i) severity and extent of deficiencies relating to surface and structural condition, safety geometrics and capacity, (ii) a benefit/cost analysis, (iii) total cost, (iv) environmental, social and economic impact of the project, (v) community impact, including effect on traffic service, congestion and safety, (vi) system continuity, (vii) local, regional and State plans, (viii) availability of funding and (ix) public and political visibility, interest and local support.
The Department is responsible for managing the State highway program. In this capacity, the Department schedules all projects, completes environmental reviews, designs the projects, acquires right-of-way, determines the mix of fund sources for individual projects, lets and awards all contracts, supervises construction activities, and performs final inspections on all projects. These activities are either performed directly by the Division of Highways or by consultants working at the direction of Departmental staff.
The Department's transportation facilities building program is managed in conjunction with the Department of Administration and the Building Commission. In order to receive statutory authority to acquire and construct a transportation facility project, the Department sends a request for purchasing, improving or constructing facilities to the Department of Administration which analyzes the request in terms of need, cost estimates and consistency with Commission guidelines on such features as safety, structural soundness and energy impact. Its decision is forwarded to the Legislature. the Legislature determines whether such transportation facilities are to be financed from Bond proceeds, the proceeds of State general obligation debt or from the Transportation Fund and makes necessary statutory appropriations and authorizations.
the Legislature may in the future identify additional major highway and transportation facilities Projects and authorize the State and the Department to use Bond proceeds to finance the acquisition and construction of such additional Projects. The Department expects that it will periodically need Bond proceeds to improve the State's system of highways and transportation facilities.
Department Highway and Financing Plans
In 1988, the Department completed major studies of future travel and economic development needs. Out of these studies came the "Corridors 2020" plan for a network of superior quality highways to foster economic development and to meet the State's mobility needs into the 21st Century. This "Corridors 2020" plan consists of approximately 3,400 miles and is composed of two elements:
The "Corridors 2020" plan was subsequently endorsed by the Governor, the Transportation Projects Commission and the Legislature. The 198991 biennial budget provided additional Departmental staff and resources to accelerate development work on these projects. The 199193 biennial budget provided full budgetary and statutory authority for the Department to proceed with the plan. Specifically, the 199193 budget included the following provisions: (i) the authorized level for the major projects program was increased to $118 million annually (1988 dollars), and (ii) the highway corridors included in the plan were enumerated in the statutes as authorized major highway projects.
The specific 199193 transportation budget provisions recommended by the Governor were announced as a part of a larger package of transportation initiatives, called "Mobility 2000." This proposal outlined a strategic, long-term and diverse package of transportation programs and policies. The time frame covered by the Governor's Mobility 2000 initiative was the six year period 1992 through 1997. The first four years of this period were included in the 199193 and 199395 biennial budgets, and the remaining two years indicate the Governor's planned program levels for subsequent budgets.
On November 17, 1994, the WisDOT formally adopted a comprehensive, long-range intermodal transportation plan called Translinks 21. This plan, which is required by and fully complies with federal Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act requirements, is proposed to guide transportation policies, programs and investments through the year 2020.
Translinks 21 outlines a blueprint to invest $39 billion in transportation over 25 years or about $8.9 billion over current spending levels extended. It provides the investments needed to maintain and improve highways as the backbone of the transportation system, while also making investments in alternatives to ensure mobility for people who cannot drive, or elderly and disabled persons, and for businesses.
In the first biennium since completion of Translinks, the Legislature increased bonding authority by $132.8 million for major highway projects. Additionally, the 199597 transportation budget directs WisDOT to accelerate completion of the major segment of a highway (State Highway 29 from Green Bay to Chippewa Falls by the year 2000) which is a backbone highway in the plan. In the current and succeeding biennia, the Legislature will continue to evaluate the plan and consider how the plan components might be implemented.
In terms of financing plans, the State has followed the policy since the mid1980s that the major highway projects program should be financed through a combination of transportation revenue bonds and State and federal funds. The Department's long-term financing plans are premised on the continuation of this policy. It also should be noted that in the highway improvement program, transportation revenue bonds are used as a funding source only for major highway projects. The remaining nonmajor portion of the program is financed entirely from State, federal and local moneys.
In addition to Bond financing, the funds used to build the State highway system generally come from two sources: the State Transportation Fund and the Federal Highway Trust Fund. The money in these funds comes primarily from the users of highways. The largest portion of this money is generated through the State and federal motor fuel taxes. Currently, the State has a use tax on motor fuel of 23.7 cents per gallon.
Beginning in April, 1985, the State motor fuel tax was indexed to correct the two principal transportation finance problems of declining fuel consumption and inflationary pressures on transportation costs. The law now provides that, each April, the motor fuel tax rate is automatically adjusted through the calculation of an index, which combines an inflation factor (the Consumer Price Index) with a consumption factor (the percentage change in motor fuel consumption) to produce the overall percentage adjustment to the State motor fuel tax rate. Since its inception, the indexing formula has increased the State's fuel tax rate by 5.7 cents through eleven annual adjustments in twelve years. The annual indexing adjustment has stabilized the buying power of State motor fuel taxes.
As a result of legislation enacted in early 1992, the indexing adjustment scheduled for April 1, 1992 did not occur. Instead, the fuel tax rate was retained at the previous year's rate of 22.2 cents per gallon. This one-year suspension of indexing occurred because the State was scheduled to receive a considerable amount of previously unanticipated federal aid in FY 1992, which made it possible to reduce State revenues in that year. In order to avoid any permanent reduction in the State revenue base for transportation programs, the legislation provided that the indexing calculation on April 1, 1993 automatically adjust the fuel tax rate by an amount sufficient to cover both the adjustment that would have been made in 1992 (0.9 cents) plus the standard formula indexing adjustment for 1993 (0.1 cents).
State transportation revenues in the Transportation Fund in the 199597 biennium will provide approximately 67% of the Department's total budget. State transportation revenues are generated by the motor fuel tax, registration fees, license fees and motor carrier fees. The Department estimates that in the 199597 biennium 64% of its State transportation revenues will come from motor fuel taxes, 26% from registration fees (including Registration Fees deposited with the Trustee and pledged for repayment of the Bonds) and 10% from other fees and taxes.
Such revenues, including Registration Fees in excess of amounts required by the General Resolution to be held by the Trustee (see "SECURITY FOR THE BONDS"), are deposited in the Transportation Fund and are used for any authorized purpose. These moneys are not pledged to or available for the payment of debt service on the Bonds. Registration Fees held by the Trustee in the Funds and Accounts created by the General Resolution are not available for the payment of the costs of any of the Department's other functions and programs except for the Program.
The federal Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act substantially restructured federal transportation programs. Under the Act, and depending on federal appropriation levels, it is anticipated that the federal aid level in the 199597 biennium will total $658.2 million. Under the provisions of the State budget, the Department is authorized to expend any federal funds received.
State transportation revenues are allocated to various transportation programs by the Legislature as a part of the biennial State budget. In the 199597 biennium, approximately 22.6% of these funds went to system improvements (21.8% to preserve existing highways and bridges and 0.8% to major projects) while 13.3% went to system maintenance. The remainder passed directly to local units of government (40.8%), paid debt service (6.9%) and paid Departmental operations (16.3%).
The Department previously utilized State general obligation proceeds for the construction of State highways. The Department uses monies from the Transportation Fund to make its share of debt service payments on these general obligation bonds. As of December 27, 1996, the outstanding amount of general obligation bonds issued for this purpose was $23.1 million. In addition, there is also statutory authority for the Department to utilize State general obligation bond proceeds as follows:
(Amounts in Millions)
Issued to Date
(Amounts in Millions)
Debt service on general obligations issued for harbor improvement and freight rail is paid by the Transportation Fund. Registration Fees can be used to pay debt service on such State general obligation debt only after their deposit in the Transportation Fund, free and clear of the lien and pledge of the General Resolution.
Wisconsin Capital Finance Office