Just Fix It Wisconsin
Wisconsin roadways ranked fourth-worst in the U.S. 3/1/2016
3/1/2016, WBAY-TV Green Bay (video) – Wisconsin roadways were ranked fourth-worst in by the Department of Transportation’s Road and Bridge Data by State, with 71 percent of Wisconsin roads in poor condition.
Another concerning statistic given to Action 2 News by the Transportation Development Association (which put out this report) says that 56 of 72 Wisconsin counties report that their roads are replaced every 75 years, rather than their intended life span of 30 years.
However, that makes sense Brown County officials—for example—who decided to no longer replace entire stretches of roadways if it can be avoided, which saves them millions of dollars a year. “For our six year plan, we try to prioritize roads and bridges in terms of need, we try to work around all the DOT projects, we work around and with other municipalities,” said Paul Fontecchio, P.E., Interim Public Works Director for Brown County.
Fontecchio says that the most dangerous roads are being fixed by the Department of Transportation on “high priority.” Most damaged roads are an annoyance, but not a danger—nothing more than an increased wear and tear factor on vehicles. “I do know at the state level right now they’re focusing on safety, the big projects that they’re bringing forward are safety-related,” he said.
Highly-traveled and frequently complained about roads aren’t always the biggest problem. Rural areas account for thousands of miles of poorly maintained roadways in Wisconsin, and few ways to get funds that would pay for road replacements. The declining populations of rural areas mean declining budgets for their municipalities. “A really rural township is going to have almost nothing, so it gets a lot more difficult for them to keep up with their roads,” Fontecchio said. “ I think of where my cabin is up north and the road there—it’s where my cabin is, I mean—I don’t expect it to be like Velp Avenue that is going to be resurfaced in a couple years.”
Brown County puts out their six-year plans for roadways and includes pictures of problem areas on their website here.
Some experts believe that while Wisconsin has lost transportation funding in various ways, other states have increased their funding, which has added to the state’s low ranking. 16 other states that have passed transportation packages since 2013, but Wisconsin was not one of them. See the report here.
Deteriorating roads are the subject of contentious debate in Madison. Lawmakers and roads officials agree that funding is behind the problem of substandard roads. Some lawmakers believe the solution lies in raising public user fees and taxes spent on transportation—which are statistically lower than other states across the U.S.—but Governor Walker is against the idea. Tolls have been discussed, but are not legal unless non-existent lanes are added—according to federal law. Right now, there is no concrete solution.
Lastly, the Department of Transportation projects frequently delay and interfere with city and county roads projects. “The DOT doesn’t work around Brown County’s projects, or the city’s projects. We work around their projects. So, [Interstate] 41, you’ve got this enormous project, one billion dollars’ worth just in Brown County,” said Fontecchio. “Well, of course I can’t be building a road right next to it at the same time the DOT is, because that just doesn’t work.”