Foxconn asks Wisconsin for technology-enabled roadway for autonomous vehicles

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Taiwanese company Foxconn Technology Group is planning to build a manufacturing plant in Mount Pleasant, WI, and now wants the state to build it a roadway for autonomous vehicles, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. Foxconn indicated it plans to move thousands of its own workers to its campus and goods from the airport to the factory.

Foxconn has told the authorities in Wisconsin it wants part of I-94 to include technological innovations to make autonomous driving possible. There would also be a route from the electronic maker’s factory to Milwaukee’s Mitchell International Airport.

Workers would be transported via shuttle to the factory, which is expected to employ as many as 13,000 at full operation. The plant, according to Foxconn, is expected to produce “ultra-high-definition liquid-crystal display panels” across 22 million square feet.

Wisconsin approved a road project on Thursday to build a 4-lane highway – 2 lanes in each direction – to the Foxconn facility. The highway will cost between $20 million and $30 million and be paid for with state funding. The plan would also expand existing roadways, including Braun Road which would expand from two lanes to six and may include one lane dedicated to buses and autonomous vehicles.

The space needed for such an ambitious project has propped up another problem. It might disrupt not only the rural community of the Racine County where the plant will be located, but also the freeway system “south of Milwaukee in Racine and Kenosha counties.”

Financing for the Foxconn plant, though, faces a challenge. A lawsuit involving the City of Eau Claire is challenging the types of funding that is being used in the Foxconn project. The Eau Claire project, a private arts center using a public-private financing program, will cost $85 million while the Foxconn project could cost the state $3 billion. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) filed an application to fund the state’s construction of vital parts of the Interstate 94 North-South expansion project, estimated at $246.2 million.

WisDOT gave special mention to Foxconn’s plant project in the application to ensure the grant for infrastructure projects will be acknowledged. The state agency noted the Taiwanese tech company is among one of “Wisconsin’s other fast-growing employers.” WisDOT added in its press release that “the grant will leverage more than $13 billion in private and public investment making Foxconn the largest single economic development project in the history of Wisconsin and the largest corporate attraction project in United States history, as measured by jobs.”

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