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Mar 15, 201612:29 PMTransportation Matters

with Debby Jackson

Common sense prevails

(page 1 of 2)

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 the 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 farmers 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 farm 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, 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.


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Mar 22, 2016 08:31 am
 Posted by  Anonymous

"Problem solving. I like it."

As I have pointed out numerous times, and I know your staff reads my posts, the problem is not a lack of funding, but an abundance of enumerated highway expansion projects. In fact, 15% of the current budget is going to adding more lanes to highways across the state.

Why has spending on expansions skyrocketed in recent years? Because Scott Walker's administration has been ignoring the safety and congestion thresholds outlined in admin code trans-210, the major highway enumeration scoring process.

Scott Walker has said his motivation for expansions is that highway investment is key to growing Wisconsin's economy. But I have filed numerous open records requests with a variety of elected officials, and none can provide evidence that backs up that claim. I even talked with an economist at WISDOT, who flat out told me they do not produce a net cost/benefit analysis. Even your staff told me the studies that TDA touts should not be read as proving general benefits to the state's economy.

So it appears the solution to the problem of the surplus of highway expansions is for groups like the TDA to take the date to the Governor and show him that expansions are not growing the economy. That will free up 15% of WISDOTs budget which could be used to improve the local highways that are the focus of your article this month.

Problem solving, I like it.

Feb 18, 2017 04:28 am
 Posted by  Anonymous

In case Scotty hasn't noticed, Wisconsin's economy is last in the country for growth. Lets just fix the roads that already exist before we get ahead of ourselves. I'm pretty sure the citizens (oh yeah, them!) would be happy with that for a start. Lets face it, Scotty isn't going to do anything for the residents of this state that requires an effort. He's too dumb to figure out this problem. If he can't steal the funds from somewhere or manipulate the laws of the state to his liking then nothing that would improve life for the average citizen is going happen.


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About This Blog

 Debby Jackson assumed the role of executive director of the Transportation Development Association of Wisconsin after more than 15 years with the organization. In addition to her vast experience in association management and transportation advocacy, Jackson has a background in business. She leverages the breadth and depth of her professional experience, along with her knowledge of the membership and mission of TDA, to be a strong voice for robust transportation infrastructure in Wisconsin. Jackson started her career as a staff auditor with Price Waterhouse, which led to a series of accounting and corporate management positions with a major national retailer.

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