Walker’s Budget for Roads Hurts Economy
Poor state infrastructure is costing motorists $6 billion a year.
As summer in Wisconsin comes into full swing, more motorists are hitting the road to enjoy the great sights and destinations our state has to offer. Unfortunately, Wisconsin tourists and residents are experiencing more potholes and crumbling roads and bridges. Instead of solving this problem, Gov. Walker and Republicans are simply posturing and ending another legislative session without meaningful action on infrastructure.
To make matters worse, Gov. Walker has once again used misleading claims to justify his inaction. Our state’s vital but neglected infrastructure deserves a serious plan. But instead, the Governor has made it clear he intends the next two years to be more of the same lack of investments for our roads and bridges.
Yesterday in his letter to the Department of Transportation, the governor showed he wouldn’t back down from his plan of underfunding the state’s roads and requested a stagnant transportation budget that will end up costing Wisconsinites. The governor claims that of the “most heavily traveled highways,” more than 90 percent of them were rated fair or above fair condition, so spending increases are unnecessary. What the governor failed to mention is that he is only referring to 1,588 miles out of 115,000 miles of roadway in Wisconsin, just 1.4 percent.
Ignoring 98.6 percent of our roadways has taken its toll. Wisconsin has the third-worst roads in the nation, with 71 percent of our roads in poor or mediocre condition, according to the US Department of Transportation. Nearly 2,000 Wisconsin bridges are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.
This approach of kicking the can down the road is actually costing the citizens of Wisconsin more money. Under Walker’s plan, costs will continue to escalate as projects are delayed. So far, overruns on highway projects have cost the state $700 million. Just to maintain our current roads, Wisconsin will fall short by $15.3 billion in the next decade.
Equally bad for drivers’ pocketbooks, the national nonprofit TRIP released a report last month stating that poor state infrastructure costs motorists $6 billion a year in congestion-related delays, crashes and vehicle repairs.
Our crumbling infrastructure is just one more item on a long list of things the Republicans in power have done to hurt Wisconsin’s economy. A well-maintained infrastructure is essential for agriculture, tourism, manufacturing and forestry; poor roads hurt businesses and consumers alike.
Democrats have attempted to address the budget shortfalls with commonsense solutions for businesses, commuters, tourists and taxpayers who rely on our roads every day. For example, Democratic legislators on the Joint Finance Committee proposed a budget motion to reinstate the annual indexing of the fuel tax rate, which would have taken the first step by increasing the transportation fund revenue by $3.8 million in 2016-2017. Republicans unanimously rejected it and instead continued to run up the credit card bill. The problem will only get worse if every possible revenue solution is dismissed out of hand by Republican lawmakers and Walker’s administration.
Democrats are committed to saving people money through funding our infrastructure, which over time will help Wisconsin become a leading state in economic development once again. While Republicans have punted on transportation, Democrats have led. We need to address our crumbling infrastructure immediately, not continue to keep kicking a bigger can down a longer road full of potholes.