Wisconsin Transportation

  • 81 public transit systems provide access to public transportation for 55% of the state’s population
  • 10 railroads, including 4 Class I railroads, carry more than 200 million tons of cargo each year
  • 127 public-use commercial and general aviation airports accommodate almost 5 million passengers and move more than 118 million pounds of cargo a year
  • 29 commercial ports handle more than 30 million tons of cargo annually
  • 115,000 miles of interstate, state and local roads facilitate the movement of commerce in the state

Transportation is more than a way to move goods and people from one place to another. The integrated network of Wisconsin’s multimodal transportation system actually functions as a platform for the entire state economy.

Wisconsin’s competitiveness is directly affected by the strength of each mode of transportation as well how efficiently the modes function within the state’s transportation network.

In 2010, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce developed a Transportation Performance Index to quantify the correlation between the performance of the transportation network and the economy. The Chamber found that if the national Transportation Performance Index had been as high as the average in the top five states, nearly $1 trillion in additional Gross Domestic Product would have been realized. Wisconsin ranked in the lower third of states in the index.


Wisconsin’s segregated transportation fund, which funds all transportation programs, is made up of federal funds, state funds, and bond proceeds.

State Funding – The motor fuel tax and vehicle registration fee are the primary state revenue sources for transportation. The gas tax is Wisconsin’s largest source of transportation funding making up slightly more than 50 percent of state transportation revenues and approximately 30 percent of total transportation revenues. As a result, Wisconsin’s transportation funding base is one of the narrowest in the nation. Other states use additional revenue sources such as significant general fund revenue, sales tax revenues, local tax options and tolling to pay for their transportation needs.

The Wisconsin Transportation Finance and Policy Commission, on which TDA served, issued a comprehensive analysis of Wisconsin’s transportation funding challenges.

Federal Funding – Federal transportation programs provide approximately one quarter of Wisconsin’s transportation revenue. These funds are raised primarily through the federal gas tax and are returned to each state based on formulas in six-year authorizations and in annual appropriations. The federal gas tax has not been adjusted since 1993 when it was increased to 18.4 cents per gallon. At that time, the price of gasoline was just over $1 per gallon and the top-selling Ford Taurus averaged 23 miles to the gallon. Today gas prices are around $2.5 per gallon, the Ford Fusion SE Hybrid averages 35 miles per gallon and the federal gas tax is still 18.4 cents per gallon.

Every year TDA members travel to Washington, D.C. for the TDA Fly-in. The TDA Fly-in is the perfect opportunity to bring Wisconsin transportation issues to our national representatives.

TDA Transportation Priorities

  • Develop and maintain a strong, interconnected transportation network that will support a robust economy and enhance the quality of life for everyone in Wisconsin.
  • Recognize the importance of adequate user fees to pay for the maintenance and improvement of our transportation network.
  • Increase the diversity of funding sources for Wisconsin’s transportation fund.
  • Maintain the historic federal-state partnership in regards to transportation funding.