Drivers should be seeing fewer potholes and cracked pavements in Onalaska, although problems with the minority of streets that are in the worst condition are growing.

The condition of the city’s streets have steadily improved over the last two years, according to the latest assessment of Onalaska’s streets that was published earlier this year .

The report found that 56 percent of city streets were in good or excellent condition, an 18.2 percent improvement since the last report was filed in 2015. At the same time, the number of streets rated fair to good fell by 11 percent, and streets rated poor to fair fell by about the same amount.

City Engineer Jarrod Holter said the latest Paser study shows the city’s commitment to repaving streets is paying off.

The study, which rates the condition of Onalaska’s 90.5 miles of city streets on a scale from 1-10, is used by the city as a way to prioritize projects when putting together the capital improvements budget.

Although the general picture has improved, the city does still have a problem with streets that are classified as “very poor or failing.”

The number of streets that fit into that category has increased six-fold in the last 10 years to 9.8 percent or 8.87 miles of city streets needed to be repaved.

According to the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Transportation Information Center, streets which receive ratings between one and four require significant structural improvements or new construction, while streets rated five or six may require routine maintenance such as seal coating or chip and crack sealing. At the top of the scale, streets rated between seven and 10 require little to no maintenance and are considered in good condition.

Holter said the classifications, which are known as Paser ratings, aren’t the only consideration when budgeting for street projects. He said street age and traffic often play a bigger role in how quickly a street deteriorates and can make a street with a higher Paser rating a higher priority.

It’s not uncommon for the city to prioritize a street in better condition that handles a lot of traffic or is older, over a street in disrepair that receives little traffic.

“I’m hopeful that we can continue to show progress as we work to repave streets and raise the city’s Paser rating,” he said, adding that much of the city’s ability to do that will depend on the availability of funding.

While the street study shows the streets have begun to improve, this wasn’t the case a few years earlier. Beginning in 2007, city street ratings began to trend downward until 2013 when things started to turn around.

Holter said the city has put an emphasis on repaving streets since it first noticed the dip in street ratings back. In 2018, the city has budgeted roughly $4,680,000 to address very poor and failing streets.

“Those streets continue to deteriorate,“ he said. “We’re trying to address those in our capital improvements budget next year.”

Major street projects currently scheduled for 2018 include Holiday Heights, East Main Street, Theater and Rider’s Club Road. The city is expected to spend approximately $27.7 million on street repairs and improvements over the next five years with the largest improvements scheduled for 2019 and 2020.


Tobias Mann is a reporter with the River Valley Media Group. He can be reached at or at 608-791-8216.

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