State Rep. Peter Barca

Walker’s Budget for Roads Hurts Economy

Poor state infrastructure is costing motorists $6 billion a year.

By - Jun 29th, 2016 01:18 pm
Road Closed. Photo by Dave Reid.

Road Closed. Photo by Dave Reid.

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.

Finally, history has shown us that Gov. Walker has no problem recklessly borrowing in the short term rather than seeking a long-term solution. In the last budget, the governor and Republican legislators borrowed $850 million in order to avoid raising more revenue for the transportation fund. The next budget will continue to rely on short-sighted borrowing rather than sustainable solutions.

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.

Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, is minority leader of the Wisconsin State Assembly.

6 thoughts on “Op-Ed: Walker’s Budget for Roads Hurts Economy”

  1. Jason says:

    Tom, driving through South eastern Wisconsin all I see are red barrels. Looking at Wis Dot website, it states that were rank #32 in transportation taxes. So were middle of the pack. How many new roads do we need in North western Wisconsin that no one drives on?

  2. David Ciepluch says:

    Jason – it is not new roads that WI should be building. In fact DOT lost in a lawsuit brought for their new road building, I believe for HW 23, where fraudulent data was used to justify 4-lanes.

    The state and citizens need a commitment to repairing and replacement of existing roads and bridges that are falling apart. Pot holes cause each driver, potentially more accidents and vehicle damage. Replacing tires and suspension systems cost well over $1,000. This does not include increased injuries and deaths from accidents.

    According the US Constitution 10th Amendment, states have broad powers to protect the health, safety, and welfare of citizens. Our current elected Republicans officials clearly fail in their duty and oath of office.

  3. AG says:

    David Ciepluch, Hwy 23 is being held up by an activist judge who keeps putting pressure on WisDOT for overly detailed breakdowns of traffic projections and using that as an excuse to stop the project. While the transparency for projections is a good thing, fact remains that this highway is ALREADY over capacity in many areas. In those cases, projections don’t matter because they already need higher capacity.

    That’s a perfect example of self-righteous ideologues costing taxpayers more money and interfering with a project that is highly supported by locally. If they cared about expenses they would have let the project happen 15 years ago at 1/3rd the cost (which is now going to go even higher by the time it happens). if they cared about safety they would support the 4 lane highway because state data shows all other 2 to 4 lane expansion projects reduced crashes. The only reason 1kfriends is standing in the way is their utter hatred of the automobile.

  4. Vincent Hanna says:

    AG you come across just as activist and short-sighted as those you decry. You use the same rhetoric, you’re just on the other side of the issue. You should be collecting a paycheck from WisDOT.

  5. AG says:

    Come on Vincent, people who live in this area and use this highway have been crying for this for years… and you can’t say I’m blinded by my views on the issue because I have the opposite opinion on the I-90 expansion south of Madison.

  6. David Ciepluch says:

    I have driven on some of the new four lanes and rural areas and am shocked at how little traffic there is traveling on the relatively empty roads. This is a total waste of taxpayer road funds. 4-lanes take up more farm lands and ongoing maintenance. There are 2/3 lanes that are rebuilt from 2 lane that would serve the purpose at much lower cost.

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