James Rowen
Op Ed

State Roads Are Second Worst in Nation

Walker’s unwillingness to spend on highways causing huge problems.

By - Jan 4th, 2018 11:19 am
Gov. Scott Walker. Photo from the State of Wisconsin.

Gov. Scott Walker. Photo from the State of Wisconsin.

Gov. Pothole has allowed Wisconsin’s roads to decay to 2nd-worst in the country, costing motorists repair penalties reaching an estimated $700 annually in the Milwaukee area, data shows.

Which is why you will find Walker on Twitter self-servingly touting initiatives and achievements and cherry-picked data points, and routinely coopting every shared cultural or sports totem and icon in the state, and even displaying what burger or beverage he’s half-consumed, like this June 1, 2014 close-up of what appears to be a grilled burrito? – –

Grilled burrito?

Grilled burrito?

– –  but you will not see him bragging about how well he’s managing the roads.

Worse, Walker’s failure as party leader to resolve GOP-infighting over how basic transportation needs will be funded (and to that crew, ‘transportation’ means roads, so forget already-dismissed and degraded transit, bike and pedestrian services) will be intensified by his election-year Foxconn monomania that is further eroding the state’s entire transportation network.

So think of a stretch of road full of potholes with an expanding sinkhole underneath, and that’s what Walker and one-party GOP rule have given people across the state for a ‘transportation system.’

We deserve better.

Case in point: the major Dane County’s highway corridor known as the South Beltline.

The basic facility is outdated, even hazardous, and while more growth and congestion are predicted in the corridor, Walker has been told by the feds who pony up the biggest funding share of such projects that it would be wasteful right now to even finish spending on a study to address the long-term issues:

…the Highway Administration warned the [Wisconsin] DOT last year against advancing the Beltline study to the environmental phase, saying it “does not believe the timing is right to initiate another project in the (environmental phase) when there are so many other projects that are further advanced and should be completed.”

It’s the consequence of Walker’s abandoning policy stewardship and government leadership in favor of maintaining at all costs his key campaign talking point:always saying he never approved a tax increase, even if the outcome is rutted roads and project delays and a mockery of transportation coherence.

The state budget enacted in September didn’t provide a revenue infusion for transportation, leaving such funds in short supply through 2019 — and causing Gov. Scott Walker’s administration to curtail its road-building ambitions.

Also curtailed: riding Wisconsin roads without hitting potholes that will loosen your fillings, burst your tires and break your shocks.

Unless your road project has the word “Foxconn” on it, Walker has no interest in funding it.

The Foxconn financial diversion folly Walker has opened in state highway funding includes a special, fast-tracked $30 million, and another $134 million drained from other projects statewide, and another borrowed $252 million billed to future taxpayers to finish slowed I-94 North/South improvements near and into the projected Foxconn complex.

Plus – – Walker hopes to cover that $252 borrowing with a Federal infrastructure grant from the Federal government even though President Donald Trump and the GOP-led Congress just deeply and permanently cut the flow of money into the Treasury so top GOP donors could get to keep more of their money.

Which is needed to fund big highway projects.

Remember, the The South Beltline project, if ever launched, could cost $1 billion.

Meanwhile, the Zoo Interchange remains incomplete.

I-94 East-West widened lanes past Story Hill have already been withdrawn, because that’s another $1 billion that doesn’t exist and which opponents would have tied up forever in righteous litigation..

Much of the vaunted, $6.4 billion Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Freeway System expansion and reconstruction never got into the ground.

And transit systems are run on shoestrings.

Bottom line: Walker is extremely vulnerable statewide on having punted basic revenue-raising obligations, keeping the roads repaired, and managing projects without chaos.

Walker and the GOP should be called out on this every day.

James Rowen, a former journalist and mayoral staffer in Milwaukee and Madison, writes a regular blog, The Political Environment.

21 thoughts on “Op Ed: State Roads Are Second Worst in Nation”

  1. Terry says:

    Walker’s Wississippi has the 2nd worst roads in the country and the state STILL has a DOT budget deficit of over 1 billion dollars! Too bad we can’t afford to pay off the DOT deficit or fix the roads because career politician Scott Walker just handed over 4 billion dollars of taxpayers’ money in corporate welfare to a Chinese company! And republicand claim to be fiscally responsible!? Charlatans and liars! How far can Walker’s Wississippi sink into oblivion?
    Dump Walker!!
    Dump Trump!!
    Save Wisconsin!!

  2. Rich says:

    To add insult to injury, especially for central MKE residents, the part of the Zoo that was finished, greatly aids the collar communities and the suburbs. What was once a five-mile backup from the Zoo to Moorland has been replaced with a worse, three-mile pile up of four lanes narrowing to three around a curve and down a hill into 68th St. So, fight on, “righteous” Story Hill residents, we all now have a virtually unfixable mess for a generation.

  3. AG says:

    I love that this article centers around the idea that WI has the 2nd worst roads in the country.


    Tracking down that “fact” takes you to a WI State Journal editorial, who cites that from a US News ranking, that used information from the US DOT, that got the info from the American Society of Civil Engineers, who collected data submitted to the federal highway administration from the states themselves that were seeking funding.  ASCE specifically points out that each state has their own standard for “poor” and “mediocre” road ratings which are not directly comparable.

     The author either assumes readers won’t fact check, or he didn’t bother to fact check himself. The rest of the op-ed falls apart without the central idea of poor roads at it’s core.

    Personally, I’d take Wisconsin’s mediocre paved roads over Minnesota’s perfect gravel roads any day of the week.

  4. PMD says:

    I did a little digging and found different rankings. A USA Today story from this year ranked us tenth worst but they didn’t say where they got the data from. A story in Auto Guide from 2014 citing federal data ranked us seventh worst. A WKOW story from last year ranked us fourth worst. So that’s a lot of ranking in the worst ten. Whether or not it’s second worst or tenth worst, it’s not good AG. Unless you have different information that tells another story here.

  5. David says:

    AG is the first person in my entire life that I’ve ever heard say something nice about the roads in Wisconsin and I know a lot of Republicans.

  6. PMD says:

    New year, same AG, defending the status quo no matter what.

  7. Q says:

    That is clearly a quesadilla

  8. AG says:

    PMD, I missed you!

    Both USA Today and Auto Guide referenced the data collected by ASCE, and I’m assuming WKOW did the same… (USA today refenced 24/7 Wall st. which then referenced ASCE).

    So again, self reported data based on their own criteria and not comparable.  Also, not surprisingly, ASCE’s data shows the states with the worst roads are in the upper midwest and northeast.  

    I’m not really defending Wisconsin roads, especially those managed locally (ugh, Milwaukee…), but just think it’s crazy how partisans look for just about anything as an excuse to complain… even when it’s factually false.

  9. Mark E. Bye says:

    2012 Ford Edge w/ 65k miles. Third set of tires installed last week, in addition to the second alignment in 6 months. Not to mention the lower tie rod end replacement last summer. TGFSW!

  10. Tim says:

    I can hear the re-election speech now, “I proudly proclaim WI to be 10th worst!”

    And he’ll be re-elected.

  11. GRNDPAKWH says:

    Northern Wisconsin depends on tourism for a major part of their economy and the roads up North are terrible. As a tax paying citizen of Wisconsin I was embarrassed to cross the border into Wisconsin from Michigan last summer. How long will it be until out of state visitors just stop coming here?

  12. will says:

    Drive 41 for work and know every dip, bump, missing pieces of roads and now the roller coaster where parts of the base of 41 has shifted. It can be fun and keeps me alert because 41 is aways changing its terrain. But the cost to my vehicle is getting to much. Heard northern county boards are going to go back to gravel roads because the state has stop giving back every county it’s share of money they use to get and paid in. Rural areas in Wisconsin are dying a fast death and bigger cities are creating the future jobs and more options to live and grow.

  13. KRalph says:

    AH mass transit, its great. Can hardly wait for the streetcar later this year!

  14. Homesteader says:

    Drove the Highway 29 freeway today from the Owen-Withee area to Wausau, about 45 miles, and decided to drive most of it in the passing lane because the regular driving lane was so bad. On the other hand, I drove to SW Missouri a few weeks ago and found the roads in Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, and Illinois invariably excellent. The worst stretch of road on the 1600 mile trip was I90 from the Illinois border to near Madison. Don’t even get me started on the lack of broadband in my rural county.

  15. podman says:

    Bad roads mean bad government.One of the original motives for taxes was to provide transportation/roads.Walker/Vos/Fitz have to be the lowest IQ government in state history. Those that support them could not even understand that we are also last in internet speed. Wisconsin voters need to wake up and realize how incompetent the governor and republicans are at providing the basics taxpayers should demand.

  16. Troll says:

    Is it just me but didn’t we finish the Marquette interchange 10 years ago. We also have seen a lot of recent work on the Zoo interchange, 94 South (expanding to eight lanes) 94 west and the Milwaukee Lakefront Gate project. Jim Doyle and Scott Walker are not investing in road infrustructure?

  17. Jonathan Rupprecht says:

    We’ve been hearing this nonsense propaganda about Wisconsin’s “terrible” roads for the last year or so. For the past three years I have driven Wisconsin roads more than any time in the past, and I have been very impressed by how good they are! This propaganda is another partisan political lie and needs to be exposed for what it is.

  18. PMD says:

    I am sick and tired of all the propaganda about the struggles of the poor and middle class. I drive on Lake Drive every single day. I see nothing but mansions and new SUVs. Everyone is rich and doing fine. Case closed. Actually Lake Drive is in terrible shape. Jonathan must never leave his driveway. Talk about partisan propaganda.

  19. will says:

    Don’t have broadband in south Central Wisconsin either. When I moved here 2 years ago outside of fdl I was shocked by the only choice is dial up. My neighbor’s have to live in Milwaukee four days a week to do a job that could mostly be done at home. Never heard back from Luther Olson office about getting real internet, chirp, chirp, chirp. Walker turned down our federal funding in 2011 for hooking up the whole state. It went to other states. Wake up Wisconsin.

  20. Little Boots says:

    @AG, wrong. It’s Wisconsin with its Billion Dollar DOT budget deficit that is forced to return its roads to gravel, not Minnesota.


    It’s easy to lie and claim Wisconsin roads aren’t the 2nd worst in the nation when technically many roads in Wisconsin aren’t really even roads anymore, they are just treachorous gravel trails we still have to pay taxes on.

    Walker decimated Wisconsin and this is just another example in a long list of examples of his disastrous mistakes, gross negligence and complete incompetence. And now this charlatan and career politician wants to be “Governor for Life.”
    It’s time to tell ALL republicans and Walker to take a hike in 2018!

  21. Terry says:

    Nice roads Walker! Nice roads Wisconsin! 2nd worst in the nation and you still have a billion dollar dot budget debt. Republicans call that being fiscally conservative.

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