The Wisconsin County Highway Association and the Wisconsin Counties Association said in a joint statement Thursday that the WisDOT’s conclusions were a poor interpretation of data.
WisDOT said 91 percent of local roads in Wisconsin and 86 percent of highway roads were “fair or above” in quality.
But WCHA executive director Daniel Fedderly said these numbers are misleading. He said it’s impossible to know what the scale of their ratings are or what the cut-off for a “good road” is.
Fedderly said the WisDOT’s statement is irresponsible, and gives people the wrong impression of Wisconsin’s roads.
According to data from WCHA collected from 72 county highway commissioners over the last five years, residents have to wait 56 years just to get their road resurfaced when roads should be resurfaced every 20 to 25 years.
Additionally, Fedderly said data also indicated the rate of construction would require every county road to last nearly 200 years, which does not seem plausible.
Benjamin Jordan, a UW expert on highway and utility operation, said the biggest problem with Wisconsin roads is funding. Jordan said one problem is that since the gas tax is no longer indexed, it doesn’t adjust for inflation. As inflation costs go up, funding from the gas tax remains the same, causing problems, he said.
“We have this issue where revenues haven’t been growing and local governments don’t really have other means to raise that revenue,” Jordan said. “They are limited.”
But Rep. John Macco, R-Ledgeview, said Wisconsin roads are already well maintained. He said the the total transportation budget is already $750 million a year.
Current funding is not the problem, Macco said. The problem is huge multi-million dollar projects that tack on additional costs, he added.
“We have to figure out how we go about funding large new infrastructure projects,” Macco said. “It’s not so much the maintenance issues.”
Fedderly said another problem is heavy agricultural machinery, which can put too much pressure on roads, decreasing their lifespan.
Patty Mayers, WisDOT spokesperson, said in an email to The Badger Herald that WisDOT works to be efficient and innovative with the management of Wisconsin’s transportation system. She said they work to make the best use of available funds.
Fedderly said to fix this funding issue there must be a way to generate some sort of long term, sustainable funding system.
“The people, the Legislature and the leadership have to make the decision to do all of that and provide the increased transportation revenue if we are going to maintain an economically viable Wisconsin into the future,” he said.