Wisconsin News

Funding for I-90 exit study hits roadblock

LA CROSSE COUNTY, Wis.--Plans to possibly move I-90's exit 3 hit a roadblock. La Crosse area leaders are now looking for alternatives to fund a study for the project, after one of the potential contributors opts out. Earlier this week, Onalaska's City Council unanimously voted down chipping in to the $49,000 study.

That means now the other potential partners have to decide whether to make up the difference for the study to move forward.


"They want to put the study together, put the study together," said Clarence Stellner, Onalaska City Council President. "But don't ask me to help them."

Last week Stellner and the Onalaska city council unanimously voted down contributing $5,000 to a study about Exit 3.

It would look into possibly moving the interchange farther east, which could open up space for more waterfront development.

"Our budget was so tight this year that $5,000 could have been something that we could have utilized for something much better for within the city itself," said Stellner.

It was supposed to be a four-way partnership between the cities of Onalaska and La Crosse as well as the La Crosse County Board and the Area Planning Commission.

Stellner said the study would provide little benefit to the city of Onalaska. So, it opted out. But La Crosse County Board President Tara Johnson disagrees.

"Exit 3 is a portal into their city," said Johnson. "It's an off-ramp that clearly leads people up to Onalaska if they go to the North."

"If I get my dollar back in the long run, I'm ready to go ahead and help, but at this particular point in the game, I cannot see where I can get my dollar back," said Stellner. "All I can see is a hindrance to my community."

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation is already planning major upgrades for the interchange in 2013.That' why Johnson say it's important that the study into possible alternatives happens now.

"It clearly has regional impact and we had hoped that all four partners would participate we are going to 'Plan B' at this point," said Johnson.

With Onalaska out of the picture, Johnson is hopeful that $5,000 can be made up somewhere else. Both the La Crosse County Board and Area Planning Commission are scheduled to vote next week on if and how much they want to contribute to the study.

"I've heard a lot of support in the community for this study and hope that the study moves forward," said Johnson. 

So far, the city of La Crosse is the only official partner in the study. On Thursday, the city council approved contributing $10,000.

The Wisconsin DOT has a deadline of mid-May for deciding whether to pursue an alternative plan for the interchange. Otherwise, engineers will move forward with the already approved 2013 upgrades.

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