Guest Columnist - Craig Thompson
Posted: June 17, 2016
Over the past several weeks, the Transportation Development Association of Wisconsin hosted six community discussions about local transportation concerns throughout the state. Sessions were held in Eau Claire, LaCrosse, Green Bay, Milwaukee, Janesville and Wausau.
Businesses, farmers, health care providers and local government officials across the state showed up and had stories to tell and perspectives to share about how transportation affects their regions. While each part of the state has its own characteristics, economic drivers and set of issues, what we heard was remarkably consistent:
*Reliability of the system is key to business competitiveness;
*It is not an "either-or". Wisconsin's transportation system is a network and each component is essential;
*Our transportation infrastructure is in disrepair;
*Local governments are forced to do "workarounds", which are not ideal, due to insufficient state funding.
Other states have come to agreement on a solution to their transportation challenges. More than 20 states in the last several years have passed sustainable statewide transportation packages. Our neighbors in Michigan and Iowa are two of the more recent examples.
Story after story confirmed what we learned in a recent report from TRIP, a national transportation research group that found Wisconsin roads are in tough shape. It's also why the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance gave our roads a "D", the lowest grade on their 2015 report card.
From local government officials we heard on an all too consistent story: Due to a lack of state funding, many have increased their reliance on bonding to simply try and keep up. If it wasn't increasing bonding, it was increasing the property tax, or, in some cases, a local wheel tax.
In Wisconsin, we pay significantly less in our transportation user fees than any of our neighboring states. After listening to the effects on our business community, it's time to "Just Fix It" Wisconsin.