Dec 14, 201209:50 AMTransportation Matters
with Debby Jackson
Peter, Paul, and Annie: State’s transportation budget won't fix itself
(page 2 of 2)
Referring to the long-awaited U.S. 10-State 441 project and U.S. 41 interchange upgrade, Rep. Dean Kaufert (R-Neenah) said, “It’s actually hindered growth here in the Fox Cities and it’s time for us to step up to the plate. I’m going to stress to the governor that this project can’t wait and we’ve waited long enough.”
Of course, he’s right, but so are the other people around the state with similar arguments. This very real budget proposal belies the theory espoused by some, which claims that by simply staving off any new construction we will have enough money to keep our current system in good condition.
The problem is the projects that some have defined as “new” are either necessary replacements of sections of the interstate that after 50 years cannot be resurfaced any more or vital projects to area economies or both. The Appleton Post Crescent refers to the same interchange as Rep. Kaufert when stating, “It’s not just a traffic or a convenience issue. It’s an economic development issue. Local officials will tell you that they have trouble drawing development to the area around the interchange because of the ridiculous access problems.”
Now, some people – those on the opposite end of the spectrum from the crowd that thinks we have enough if we just don’t build or rebuild anything – may advocate moving these major projects forward at the expense of funding for our county, town, and municipal roads. I will tell you that is equally preposterous.
First of all, local governments have already seen the state’s share of the cost for maintaining local roads decline over the past decade. The result is increased pressure on property taxes.
Secondly, in order to get these major projects back on schedule, you would have to decimate local programs.
Finally, while the major projects listed above are certainly important to area economies and the overall economy of Wisconsin, I will give you more than 77,000 reasons why Wisconsin’s network of county and municipal roads is absolutely critical to Wisconsin. Farms.
In my last blog, I talked about manufacturing in Wisconsin and its reliance on our transportation network. I don’t think I have to explain to anyone in the Dairy State that our farms, 98% of which are still family owned, are dependent upon county and town roads from Shullsburg to Crandon and everywhere in between. In fact, TDA’s second installment in the series we call Big 10 Transportation Truths answers the question “why does transportation matter?” quite succinctly: “More than 77,000 Wisconsin farms.” Take a look. I bet there are some facts about Wisconsin farming and its link to transportation you didn’t know:
Anyway, back to the blog. I am here to tell you that robbing Peter to pay Paul is not an option. Both Peter and Paul are tapped out. And unfortunately, Annie may be “betting her bottom dollar that tomorrow there’ll be sun,” but as for me, I’ve never cared for musicals. I mean who just breaks out in song for no good reason? Here’s an idea. Let’s address the actual problem and adjust our transportation user fees. The payoff will be real rather than imagined.
Sign up for the free IB Update – your weekly resource for local business news, analysis, voices, and the names you need to know. Click here. If you are not already a subscriber to In Business magazine, be sure to sign up for our monthly print edition here.