CAPITAL CITY PATH (copy) (copy)

A bicyclist pedals along the Capital City Trail bike path between Marquette Street and Fair Oaks Avenue in October 2015.


Despite vetoing a budget provision that would have barred local governments from regulating quarries because of objections to “inserting a major policy item into the budget without sufficient time to debate its merits,” Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker left in place a measure that will take away the rights of municipalities to exercise eminent domain to build bike paths, bike lanes and sidewalks.

Both items were inserted into the budget at the Legislature’s budget committee stage by unnamed lawmakers two weeks ago. Walker announced nearly 100 vetoes on Wednesday. Under his line-item veto power, Walker can cross out portions of the budget while approving the rest.

“That leaves us speechless,” said Dave Cieslewicz, executive director of the Wisconsin Bike Federation, in an email statement. “Taking away an authority local governments have had since statehood wasn’t a major policy item? Making bike and pedestrian facilities more costly and cumbersome or forcing them to be scrapped altogether didn’t deserve more time for debate? Harming everyone’s safety by not providing more safe places to ride and walk isn’t something the public has a right to weigh in on?”

Cieslewicz and Madison city officials blasted the provision last week, saying that it could empower a single property owner to put millions of dollars worth of bike projects on hold. It could also prevent municipalities from constructing sidewalks as part of street projects, which Madison Mayor Paul Soglin called a major safety concern.

“This is a power local governments have had since statehood,” Cieslewicz said. “Yet, the Legislature and governor took it away from them by slipping it into the budget in the dark of night. No legislator even stood up to take credit for its authorship and there was no debate.”

He said more than 600 Bike Fed members contacted Walker to ask him to veto the amendment. He’s asking those members to contact Walker again to “let him know how disappointed they are in his arrogance.”

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According to city officials, the provision could affect several projects, including: sidewalks as part of improvements to Buckeye Road between Monona Drive and Stoughton Road; bike lanes and sidewalks on Cottage Grove Road between the interstate and Sprecher Road; sidewalks, bike lanes and a multi-use path in a project on Pleasant View Road from Mineral Point Road to Highway 14; and a multi-use path on along Atwood Avenue from Monona Drive to Fair Oaks Avenue.

In addition, it will likely affect several bike trail projects, including: the last segment of the Cannonball Trail, which would complete the bike path from south Fitchburg to downtown Madison; the extension of the Capital City Trail from Buckeye Road past the interstate to connect with Cottage Grove; a path linking the Capital City Trail with the Marshview Bike Path; the extension of the West Towne Path to the Junction Ridge Path along County M; and extension of the Demetrol Park Path to Johnson Street.

Other potentially impacted projects include Janesville’s Northeast Regional Trail extension, the Wildwood-McMillan connector trail in Marshfield and the Utility Corridor multi-use path in Sheboygan.

It could also thwart the ambitious Route of the Badger network in southeastern Wisconsin, which aims to connect 500 miles of completed trails in seven counties.

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Steven Elbow joined The Capital Times in 1999 and has covered law enforcement in addition to city, county and state government. He has also worked for the Portage Daily Register and has written for the Isthmus weekly newspaper in Madison.