Transportation remains a key issue being dealt with by local municipalities across the state, as they try to find sustainable ways to fix crumbling county roads with limited funds. Matters were made worse after a recent audit into the state’s highway program revealed consistent underestimating of project costs by the Wisconsin D.O.T., among other issues.
“Many of us know we have some deteriorating roads out there, we’ve had construction delays, and declining revenue to support the systems we have currently in place,” said State Representative Gary Tauchen. “The audit brought up a lot of areas of major concern, and one of them was that [the state highway program] was not soliciting for multiple bidders. There were 363 projects that only had one company bidding.”
Representative Tauchen’s remarks echo a lot of the frustration exhibited by many of the public. The problem with this lack of transportation funds, Tauchen adds, is that there is no easy fix-all solution
“It’s the one issue that probably will be the toughest issue that we deal with,” Tauchen admitted. “We have to give some considerable thought, look at the options, and try to figure out best how we can make it sustainable over the long haul.”
A previous solution by the state was constant borrowing of funds in order to address the issues, but Tauchen notes that solution only sweeps the matter under the rug.
“We can’t continue borrowing,” said Tauchen. “Already 20 cents on every dollar is going towards debt service. We have to recognize that if we’re providing that money for debt service, it’s not going towards transportation, it’s not going towards improving our roads.”
While the state assembly is focused on a long-term solution, he assures the public that the assembly is examining all possibilities.
“As far as the assembly is concerned, we are 100 percent looking at all the options,” Tauchen said. “We’re not cutting anything. It’s unlikely the governor would support any kind of a tax increase, but whether we can do some kind of offset that was recommended by the state assembly is something that’s still up for debate, I think. If we can offer some kind of an offset, the governor might be supportive of it.”
Transportation funding has been an issue that has taken off, since an unprecedented statewide “Turnout for Transportation” meeting were held in each of the state’s counties last fall.