Monday, November 17, 2008

Local roads will get worse under WisDOT budget proposal

Expect more potholes in your future because the Wisconsin Department of Transportation is requesting a one percent increase in local road assistance for municipalities and counties.

One percent! That's a boost of $4.3 million statewide out of a requested $397.1 million increase in the state transportation budget. General Transportation Aid funding would be $413.8 million in FY10 and $418.0 million in FY11 for municipalities and counties to help pay for construction, maintenance and operations of local roads. The cost of the materials to build and maintain those roads, meanwhile, has soared.

The American Road & Transportation Builders Association said last month that "the cost of highway and street construction materials was up 22.2 percent in September 2008 compared to the same month last year. During the same time period, inflation, as measured by the consumer price index, was 4.9 percent. Over the last five years, between 2003 and 2008, the price of highway and street construction materials has risen 76.5 percent."

My oh my. That one percent increase in local aids WisDOT Secretary Frank Busalacchi wants to dole out won't go very far for cash-strapped, levy-limited local units of government. Yet WisDOT is charging ahead with its foolish plans for unneeded, unwelcome freeway expansion in Milwaukee.

Way to set priorities, Mr. Busalacchi.

1 comment:

Rich Eggleston said...

The GTA program to help repair local streets and roads has long been a poor stepchild to the state highway program.

From 2000 to last year, GTA increased just 9%. In the last budget, Senate Democrats succeeded in increasing the program more than Gov. Doyle proposed.

But there's a lot of catch up before GTA will be anywhere near whole: Since 2000, major state highway appropriations have risen 36%; the state major highway repair program has grown 12%; and another new state highway program -- the Southeast Wisconsin Highway Rehabilitation Program earmarked for Gretchen Schuldt's beloved Marquette interchange, and I-94 expansion to the Illinois state line, has increased 80%, according to the numbers stored in my computer.

But the General Transportation Aids formula's only problem isn't its status as poor stepchild and the escalating materials costs Schuldt pointed out.

Inadequate funding combined with the way the formula works deprives communities that need additional money the most.

Poorer central cities and small villages see their GTA checks shrink every year because they aren't building new streets and roads.

It would be necessary to add tens of millions of dollars to the program every year just to simply hold the "losers" harmless.

The cost of doing that in 2006 would have been $34 million.