Good roads are the backbone of any economy

Friday, July 01, 2011

An editorial in the La Crosse Tribune illustrates much of the current thinking about transportation, with no consideration of environmental issues or concern for future oil supplies:

There are lots of reasons why transportation is a crucial part of Wisconsin’s economy – 6.5 billion of them. That’s the dollars that are in the transportation budget over the next two years.

Here are some positive points about the transportation budget:
  • The raid on the transportation fund, which resulted in the siphoning of $1.3 billion to pay for other state programs under former Gov. Jim Doyle — is over. That money has been paid back.
  • Bonding for major projects continues but at a lower level. Borrowing has declined by $155 million.
  • There is no increase in gas taxes or vehicle registration fees.
  • More than $35 million in sales tax revenue will be put into the transportation fund, which represents 7.5 percent of the revenue from sales of vehicles and vehicle parts.
  • The $2.8 billion of spending in the state highway improvement program is the same as the previous budget. 
Transportation funding has been a challenge since the Legislature in 2005 stopped the annual gas tax increase. With more fuel-efficient cars and declining registration fees, many road projects were on the cut list because of declining revenue.

The budget also establishes the Transportation Finance and Policy Study Commission, which will investigate where future transportation funds should come from. We need some creative revenue options to keep our transportation system strong, unless we like the idea of toll roads, bad highways or failing bridges.

Good roads are the backbone of any economy, particularly a state like Wisconsin that relies heavily on transportation to support its manufacturing and agricultural base. The state has more than 112,000 miles of public roadway, which includes 11,753 miles (750 miles of interstate and 11,010 miles of state or U.S.-marked highways) in the State Trunk Highway System.