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Milwaukee Area Lacks Funds To Meet Mounting Infrastructure Needs, Report Finds

View beneath the highways crisscrossing Milwaukee.

From roads and bridges to aging buildings and buses, the Milwaukee area is facing a lot of infrastructure needs. When taken in its totality, the dollar amount required for those needs is enormous and far beyond the area’s financial capabilities.

Researchers at the Wisconsin Policy Forum have been looking into these issues for the past three years. Its latest report is the culmination of that research, and it explores some possible solutions moving forward. The report found that by 2023, fixing this backlog could cost more than $225 million. The figure doesn't include the price of replacing the dilapidated Safety Building, which could cost around $180 million. 

According to Rob Henken, president of the Wisconsin Policy Forum, state-imposed restraints make it difficult to raise the necessary money to fund these projects. Municipalities have very strict limitations on the kinds of taxes they are able to impose, which makes the city of Milwaukee disproportionately reliant on state funds (compared to other large, U.S. cities). 

READ: Wisconsin Municipalities Rely Heavily On Property Taxes, Report Finds

"The revenue structure that has been established for our local governments here in the state of Wisconsin is a very challenging one," says Henken. "There aren’t a lot of options for cities and counties, and villages, to see the type of annual revenue growth that they would need to be able to do things like be on regular replacement cycles for things that are as boring as infrastructure."


Joy is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.