Just Fix It Wisconsin

State Views: We only need political will to fix roadwork needs 2/2/2016

2/2/2016, Janesville Gazette  By Craig Thompson – The state of transportation in Wisconsin is not as strong as it needs to be.

I am not alone in this assessment. The Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance released a 2015 report card for Wisconsin in which it graded 23 different areas of the state, from per capita personal income to energy costs to graduation rates. The area that received the worst grade was the condition of our highways, in which Wisconsin received a “D.”

The state’s roads are lacking by comparison, as well. The U.S. Department of Transportation posted a fact sheet titled Road and Bridge Data by State. It shows 71 percent of Wisconsin’s roads are in mediocre or poor condition. That places Wisconsin 47th out of 50 states.

So what, you might say, if our roads are a little bumpy to drive over and hard to look at? We have more important things to tend to, such as creating jobs.

Well, if we want to attract and retain businesses that create jobs, we are likely neglecting the No. 1 priority of businesses. In a national survey of CEOs and consultants ranking factors for choosing where to locate, access to highways scored as the most important factor (A skilled workforce ranked No. 2). It’s no wonder, when you consider the fact that transportation comprises between 50 percent and 80 percent of supply chain costs.

Why are we faring so badly when it comes to our roads? At the local level, cities, towns and counties are able to repair and replace fewer miles of road each year due to stagnant state funding. In many instances, replacement schedules now exceed twice the number of years for which the roads were engineered. As for our major highways, some of our most pressing improvement projects continue to be delayed and shelved for the same reason.

Enough of the doom and gloom. The good news is that, unlike eradicating poverty or finding peace in the Middle East, this problem is within our control. All it requires is proactive leadership.

Now is the time to tackle this issue. Lower gas prices have saved the average two-car household more than $1,000. We can put Wisconsin transportation back on a sustainable funding path while still leaving most of those dollars in the motorists’ pockets.

Wisconsin has long provided a value to drivers—lower combined gas taxes and vehicle registration fees—when compared to neighboring states. We can modernize our system and provide mobility options without jeopardizing this advantage.

We can most certainly do better than a “D”. All this requires is the resolve to address the problem. Let’s just fix it.

Craig Thompson is executive director of the Transportation Development Association of Wisconsin, 10 E Doty St., No. 201, Madison, WI 53703; phone 608-256-7044. The association promotes the vitality and safety of the state’s transportation system, including public transit systems, public-use and general aviation airports, railroads, commercial ports, and roads.

Note: This item also ran in following publications: Eau Claire Leader, Chippewa Herald, Fond du Lac Reporter, Green Bay Press-Gazette, Janesville Gazette, La Crosse Tribune, Manitowoc Herald Times, Marshfield News Herald, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Onalaska Holmen Courier-Life, Oshkosh Northwestern, Sheboygan Press, Stevens Point Journal, Sun Prairie Star, Superior Telegram, The Country Today, Wisconsin Rapids Tribune.