“Locally, we’re getting a 2 to 3 percent increase in general transportation aids, which isn’t even enough to chip-seal a quarter mile of road,” said Eau Claire County highway commissioner Jon Johnson.And Eau Claire County Commissioner Johnson might not even get that 2-3% increase in local aids, because when the GOP-led Joint Finance Committee ripped up Governor Walker's DOT budget last week, Walker's $71 million increase for local road and general transportation aids and his proposed $33.7 million boost for maintenance also went away.
With about 42 percent of its road surfaces rated poor or mediocre and on a downward spiral, the county has borrowed $6.5 million in each of the past three years in an effort to catch up. The extra money will enable the county to repave 23 miles of highway this year, exceeding its goal of 20 miles per year, Johnson said.
Dunn County highway commissioner Jesse Rintala said the county generally doesn’t reconstruct highways because of the high costs and instead relies on resurfacing, repaving and reconditioning projects. The county plans to work on about 12 miles of such projects this year, which is about 30 percent fewer miles than would be required to keep up with its 425 miles of county trunk highways based on a 25-year pavement life.
Chippewa County is fighting the same losing battle.
“At 489 centerline miles of county highways in Chippewa County, the goal would be to replace about 25 miles of pavement per year to maintain a 25-year pavement replacement cycle,” highway commissioner Brian Kelley said. “At the current funding levels, we are only able to replace 10 miles of pavement per year, which results in a 49-year pavement replacement cycle.”
Obviously, that money could come back as the budget debate develops, but Lindquist's article points out the severity of needs that already exist, and some of the deterioration is unlikely to be reversed. For example, Lindquist notes that the Trempealeau County Town of Chimney Rock has had 7 miles of its roads go back to gravel, and how a bridge on Buffalo County Road U partially collapsed in February, and drivers are still being detoured around it 2 months later.
Yes, Western Wisconsin roads will get some help coming from Washington, as part of $12 million that was announced last week from the US DOT as part of Emergency Funding to offset damages caused by major floods last year. But those damage (and the associated repairs) go beyond the wreckage that had already occurred, and it is highly unlikely that those local governments will be getting more than Walker's original budget in whatever ends up being signed.
And when combined with another year without an increase for general shared revenues to state municipalities, it becomes all the more crucial to see if the GOP Legislature comes up with a plan to increase DOT revenues enough to stop the bleeding and get the repair cycle somewhat back to normal. A whole lot of local government officials are running out of patience as GOP_run state government continues to dither on coming up with a real solution to fill the increasing potholes that line Wisconsin roads.