Common sense prevails 3/13/2016

3/15/2016, In Business Blog – I thought the phrase “common sense isn’t so common” may be a bit tired.  So, I did some online research about who first uttered these pearls.  Apparently, Voltaire is credited with having said this in the 1700s which, in my mind makes it go from being tired to time-tested.  Anyway, in politics especially, common sense can be a rare commodity indeed.

With that being said, a common sense solution to a specific problem did emerge from the State Legislature recently.

As I have written on extensively, Wisconsin’s transportation fund is woefully short of meeting needs of Wisconsin’s transportation system, including our state and local roads.  For many towns and counties this is exacerbated by heavy agriculture equipment traversing these roads which the towns and counties are unable to maintain for even basic vehicular travel – like my Ford Escape.  The result is some pretty bad town and county roads.  And in some cases roads are being weight restricted – forcing farmers to travel greater distances to get on roads that are not weight restricted at a greater cost.  All of this, of course, eats into the bottom line.

To use another tired or time-tested phrase, “this is where the rubber meets the road” in terms of tensions between some local officials and the farming community.  The problem is that neither of them are wrong.  Agriculture is one of Wisconsin’s most important and iconic industries, and they have to move stuff.  Local officials, on the other hand, are charged with managing the public assets – in this case the town or county roads – to get the greatest life out of them and these great big implements do cause damage.

The truth of the matter is, even if we finally address our systemic and ongoing transportation revenue shortfall at the state level, there will never be sufficient funding to engineer all of the town and county roads to a standard that can withstand some of this heavy machinery for a prolonged period of time.

This is why some concerned legislators and local officials and agricultural representatives have discussed the idea of identifying priority corridors.  Routes that could be engineered and maintained to withstand the traffic from these very important and very big pieces of machinery.

There is also the idea of finding alternative ways to move stuff.  That is where Senate Bill 390 comes into play.  The bill, sponsored by Senator Jerry Petrowski and Representative James Edming and signed into law by Governor Walker, gives municipalities the authority to permit piping of liquid manure within a highway right-of-way.

As Rob Richard from the Farm Bureau points out, “With the idea of limiting excessive road use by semi-tractors and manure tankers to help preserve an aging and underfunded infrastructure, it’s important we find alternative means to transport liquid manure from point source to the fields.”

Makes sense to me.

This certainly isn’t a silver bullet that is going to solve the lack of resources to rebuild key segments of our interstate system or provide locals enough revenue to replace more than a mile or two of road every year, but it does address a specific problem in a concrete way.

Problem solving.  I like it.