Alice in Dairyland enters the year 2017 to find herself as Alice in Wonderland looking down a state and Coulee Region transportation rabbit hole.
Wisconsin’s road funding faces a $1 billion shortfall due to flat gas tax revenues. Road building and maintenance at both state and county levels now depends on more than $500 million in borrowed funds. Yet this is below what is needed to maintain our current road systems and has resulted in widespread delays for new road projects.
As cars are become more fuel-efficient, revenue issues will be exacerbated by fundamental changes in our transportation patterns. Interest in electric cars is increasing, urban millennials are less interested in owning cars and more interested in using public transportation, and driverless cars may become a common mode of travel on our roads and highways within the near future.
This past week a front-page story in this paper provided details on changes to be completed next summer on Interstate 90’s Exit 3 at a cost of $16.5 million to rework less than one mile of an existing roadway.
Moreover, reliance on the private auto comes with requirement for additional public-funded transportation infrastructure.
Property tax dollars are paying $17 million for a 605-car parking ramp at Vine Street in downtown La Crosse. Going forward, the annual cash and opportunity cost to fund this ramp will be more than $2.3 million or more than $3,810 per car. The cost for our old way of moving goods and people is not competitive in a world economy and will change dramatically in the next 20 years.
In the La Crosse area, a major north-south road project estimated to cost more than $125 million — was enumerated for funding by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation more than 25 years ago. Planning for this project continues, and last month the Wisconsin DOT transitioned to the final stage of its “Coulee Region Transportation Study.” Potential pros and cons of this project continue to generate considerable discussion within our community. The state’s road-fund shortfall may provide the Coulee Region with additional time to debate this issue. The DOT timeline provides for construction of this Coulee Transportation project between the years 2025-2030, allowing for continued discussion about this project.
On Jan. 18, the Sustainable La Crosse Commission will be hosting an informational forum on alternate modes of transportation for the Coulee Region.
The forum, which is open to the public, will be from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. in the 3rd floor conference room in La Crosse City Hall. Individuals representing the La Crosse MTU, biking interests, the SMRT bus and shared ride transit service, and the Wisconsin DOT have been invited to participate. If you are inquisitive like Alice, please attend the forum.