Just Fix It Wisconsin

County leaders: Ask legislators to complete Highway 23 project 3/3/2017

3/3/2017, Sheboygan Press – According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, Wisconsin’s roads are in bad shape, ranking Wisconsin the 3rd worst in the nation for road conditions. The Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance and American Society of Civil Engineers have also independently reported Wisconsin’s transportation system is badly deteriorating. A recent study showed drivers in Milwaukee and Madison alone are spending more than $600 per year in vehicle repairs.

In Sheboygan County, work on State Highway 23 continues to be delayed, and sadly, many residents and visitors know all too well how dangerous it can be. According to the Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau, when the State Highway 23 project was first approved in 1999, the estimated cost was $42 million. Today, due to ongoing delays and inflation, the project is estimated to cost $146 million!

In 2014, a lawsuit was filed which further contributed to delaying the Highway 23 project and making important safety improvements. As a result, the cost of the project continues to climb, as does the list of serious accidents and loss of life.

We were pleased to see our area state legislators rally around this issue in 2015 and co-sign a strongly written letter to the judge involved stating, “It is imperative this project be allowed to begin as soon as possible. The injury and accident rate on this highway has been a problem for a number of years and continues to accumulate each month the delay is extended.”

Unfortunately, the governor’s recently proposed state budget eliminates funding for State Highway 23, delaying the project for at least another three years.

The State Highway 23 project is a key investment and essential for safety, economic development, employment, and our quality of life. With all due respect, this ongoing delay shows a lack of leadership and political will to accomplish what needs to get done. We are falling further and further behind in maintaining a safe and reliable transportation system, and as can be plainly seen on Highway 23, it is fiscally irresponsible to continue to kick this can down the road.

Our state transportation system is nearing a crisis, and the time has come for action. We must have adequate funds to maintain our roads and protect our community’s investment.

We want to thank Senators Devin LeMahieu and Duey Stroebel, and Representatives Terry Katsma, Jesse Kremer and Tyler Vorpagel for their attention to State Highway 23. We trust when they wrote to the judge, “We respectively ask for your prompt attention in this matter, your decision and timeliness is one that impacts the lives of our constituents and all those using this highway,” that they meant business, and have similar expectations of the governor.

The governor and our state legislators must work together to establish a sustainable solution to our transportation challenges, and complete the Highway 23 project. If federal funding is going to continue to be held up, the governor and legislature have the option to use state funds for Highway 23 expansion and safety enhancements.

How many more lives will be lost, and how much more will it cost, before this ongoing problem is addressed? Rather than settle for excuses, or be complacent, please join us in contacting our state legislators and let them know that you support their efforts and want results.

Adam N. Payne is the Sheboygan County administrator and Thomas G. Wegner is the chairman of the Sheboygan County Board.