Mar 6, 201809:42 AMTransportation Matters
with Debby Jackson
Wisconsin's roads crumble while difficult decisions are delayed
(page 1 of 2)
That is the only word that seems to truly sum up Wisconsin when it comes to sustainable transportation funding. There are precious few legislators from either house who don’t express, in clear terms, that Wisconsin’s current transportation revenue is inadequate to meet current needs, but in the end nothing changes. Well, some things change — the roads keep getting worse and the traveling public keeps getting angrier.
So, after this very topic held up passage of the overall state budget for months, it ends up back on the front page again. Why? In part because the Trump administration is proposing a federal infrastructure package that would rely predominantly on the states to step up and increase their financial commitment.
This is exactly what Wisconsin has been unable or unwilling to do. Despite report after report finding the condition of Wisconsin’s roads to be the worst in the Midwest and among the very worst in the entire country.
Incredibly, some state officials are now saying that the only way raise sufficient revenue in Wisconsin is to do toll roads. The ONLY way? Really?
Let’s start with the fact that first Congress would have to pass, and the president sign, a federal package that lifts the current ban on tolling interstates. If that were to happen, our state Assembly and Senate would have to proactively vote to move forward on implementing tolling, and the governor would have to sign that legislation. That’s a heavy lift for a body that hasn’t taken a single vote on transportation revenue increases — other than a fee on electric vehicles and hybrids — in over a decade.
If all of those things were to happen, we would have to build the tolling infrastructure. According to a study done for the Wisconsin DOT in the previous budget, this would take about four years.
To recap: All we need is an act of Congress, the Wisconsin legislature and the governor to come together and agree on a transportation revenue source, and then to hire a firm to place gantries up across the Dairy State and … voila! Six short years later we’ve solved our transportation-funding situation.