ON THE ROAD AGAIN….
In February 2018, US News and World Report ranked Wisconsin 44th in the country for its road conditions. The report, based on 2016-2017 data, noted that 31 percent of Wisconsin’s roads are in poor condition compared to Minnesota’s 10 percent.
The National Bridge Inventory rates the structural fitness of bridges from 0 to 9; 0 indicates the bridge is closed, 9 is a superior rating. Wisconsin’s average bridge rating decreased from 6.5 in 2008 to 6.3 in 2016. If this trend continues, we will have increased numbers of bridges closing or imposing weight limits, negatively affecting industries that haul heavy loads, such as logging and agriculture.
County Highway Administration Executive Director Dan Fedderly notes that 20 years ago, when he was a County Highway Commissioner, he would have 10 or 12 bridge projects going at once, and now it’s common for a county to have only one or two.
Most main roads are in good condition now, but smaller rural roads are in dire need of repair. Failure to establish a source of funds for regularly scheduled maintenance and replacement of roads and bridges sets the State up for a crisis in the future with a sudden massive need for transportation dollars.
Stagnant federal and state funding has failed to keep up with increased maintenance and construction costs. In the last six years Wisconsin’s Republican legislature hasn’t formulated a long-term, sustainable transportation funding solution, relying instead on increased bonding — borrowing — to meet minimal needs. In 2000, 7 cents of every road fund dollar went to repaying interest on that debt; in 2018, 20 cents of every transportation dollar goes to pay interest; and in 2019, the cost is expected to be 22 cents per dollar.
If we are in good economic times now, why isn’t the government paying for our roads as we build them and paying for maintaining what we have, rather than borrowing more and going further in debt?
Wisconsin has a primary election August 14. Take some time to research candidates’ proposals to address Wisconsin’s transportation budget problems. If you have a chance to meet a candidate, ask some questions:
*Do you think Wisconsin needs to do a better job on fixing our roads and bridges?
*Do you think we should fix existing roads before spending more on new construction?
*Do we need to increase transportation fund revenue? If so, how do you propose to raise additional revenue?
Wisconsin needs a good infrastructure to have a strong economy. Let’s elect responsible officials who will find common-sense solutions to our transportation and other infrastructure budget problems instead of kicking the can down a pothole-filled road.
“Deteriorating State of Wisconsin Bridges Adds to Transportation Budget Woes,” Wisconsin State Journal, August 13, 2017
“The Transportation Debate: Critics Say Scott Walker’s Record on Road Funding Will Be an Issue This Fall,” Cap Times, April 4, 2018