FILE -- road closed

Wisconsin’s roads need more than engineering and concrete.

They need leadership and courage.

They don’t need delays. They don’t need answers that only pretend to suit the political whims of today instead of the needs of today and tomorrow.

We need leadership – the type that requires difficult, potentially unpopular decisions if we’re truly going to serve the future of our state’s roads and bridges.

If Wisconsin is open for business and tourism, we need to make sure our roads are, too.

Gov. Scott Walker announced plans last week to delay road projects in Wisconsin. Sadly, that’s not what our road system needs.

The state’s Legislative Fiscal Bureau estimates the state needs $939 million to pay for projects that have already been approved.

The governor wants to give more money to local governments for road work, but it barely will patch the pothole. Here’s an example of his solution and the problem: Under Walker’s plan, La Crosse County would receive $127,000 during the next two years. The problem is, La Crosse County has an $89 million to-do list of work that includes “failing pavements, bridges in need of replacement, resurfacing and stormwater issues,” County Highway Commissioner Ron Chamberlain said.

A bandage and a lollipop won’t help.

Let’s look at an opportunity we’ve already lost – and a possible solution going forward.

For 20 years beginning in 1986, Wisconsin raised revenue by automatically indexing its fuel tax each year by a small amount per gallon.

Yes, that raised the tax. It also raised millions of dollars to improve our roads.

In 2005, the Legislature and then-Gov. Jim Doyle agreed to repeal that automatic annual increase. It was an easy, popular quick fix – and even some conservative Republicans said it was short-sighted.

How much did that cost our transportation fund in revenue?

The Legislative Fiscal Bureau reported in March 2015 that the transportation fund had lost more than $1 billion because of the change, which took effect after April 2006.

So, you do the math: The state needs $939 million to complete approved projects, and we’ve lost out on $1 billion because we lacked the leadership and courage to continue the adjustment on a tax that is paid by all who use the roads, including tourists and many other non-Wisconsin residents.

Our state has a heritage of appointing bipartisan, blue-ribbon committees to improve operations, such as the Kettl Commission, charged more than 15 years ago with studying ways of restructuring government in our state.

Since Walker has been governor, we haven’t seen that type of collaborative problem-solving, only divide and conquer.

Now would be an excellent time to pull together businesses and transportation executives to help policy-makers make sound decisions on funding and fixing Wisconsin roads.

We’re encouraged that members of both the Republican and Democratic caucuses are unhappy with the governor’s approach to fixing our road problem.

But will they have the leadership and the courage to do something about it? Will they be able to override a veto from the governor? Will they be able to work together on a solution?

We’re not optimistic.

The Transportation Development Authority will convene constituents throughout the state Sept. 29 to call attention to the problem. It’s an excellent opportunity to speak out.

TDA Executive Director Craig Thompson said the governor’s proposal “does not provide a coherent plan or vision for the state. It would provide, for the next two years, needed investment at the local level, but at the expense of important economic corridors. Crucial safety improvements called for by WisDOT on some of the busiest stretches of interstate in Wisconsin would not proceed. The question is: If we are not going to rebuild 60-year-old segments of the interstate system now, when are we?”

That’s exactly the question: If not now, when?

During a TDA meeting in Onalaska this summer, businesses like Kwik Trip talked about the increased cost of maintenance and replacement caused by deteriorating roads.

Jeff Reichling, Kwik Trip’s superintendent of petroleum transportation, said during that meeting: “This will only continue to grow as a problem.”

The safety of our residents and the vibrancy of commerce and tourism are at stake.

It’s time to find a long-term solution – even if it hurts.


(26) comments


Roads should not be a partisan issue but an economic one-- streets need to be fixed on schedule or the up-front investment is lost to rapid deterioration.

Why do a republicans adhere to an ideology that actually welcomes crisis in order to push a political ideology that no typical person would want.

Fix the darn roads already. Quit interfering with people's livelihoods.


Have to admit peak i90 construction traffic suddenly flows pretty well between Exits 3 and 4 in its temporary configuration (reduced to single-lane with added auxiliary lanes-- both directions), and lowered posted speed (55). Had drivers been better served if this were the permanent configuration instead the past 20+ years?? Among others, it begs a question as to whether DOT had been constructing interstate segments optimally for the urban areas they serve. I prefer they revisit lowering interstate speeds in urban areas and a 50yr-old foundation for Level of Service criteria-- what does it mean for an urban interstate user to feel frustrated in a modern age?

Buggs Raplin

Nothing, absolutely nothing, in terms of commuting, as seen in the big cities. Try rush hour in Chicago for an example. We are so blessed in comparison.-Chip DeNure, Independent candidate for the state senate


I have a novel idea: how about we not do road construction that is not needed (like the Cass Street roundabout, the I90/53 intersection, the north/south freeway) and only do projects that are really needed.

I have another novel idea: how about we not let these projects turn into multi-year boondoggles. There was recently a rebuild of a very small rest area off a local highway that should have been done in two weeks that ended up taking 6 months. And does it strike anyone as strange that the simple rebuild of the lanes on I90/53 is taking as long as the monster engineering project Mississippi river bridge?

Simply bad management by the DOT.

Tim Russell

And you have a degree in Traffic Engineering from where?

Buggs Raplin

You don't need a degree in traffic engineering to know the north/south corridor is bad for La Crosse. Nice try, Tim, but as usual you fail in your argument.


He presents no argument. Just dopey snipes.

Tim Russell

Bad for La Crosse in what way.
You make a lot of general statements. Just once can you offer some evidence that supports your claim?

Tim Russell

Do you also get your medical advice from the bag boy at Festival Foods?


We need the 53/90 ramp/auxiliary lane improvements and the reasons are numerous. But with those improvements, Onalaska should never have been allowed to expand Main St to 5-lanes using state dollars (Main could easily have been 3lanes/bike lanes/utilize existing curb). I believe (in fact I know) a few short-sighted wealthy residents north of Coulee Golf believe they can hold the rest of us hostage on transportation policy, even if it's bad for the entire metro.

Buggs Raplin

I think it's pertinent in any discussion of the problems of our nation's infrastructure to note that the US government spends $4 million dollars every hour occupying Afghanistan. That's every hour. And this expenditure is not going to end any time soon.


So your against fight terrorism and funding it. That's just what you've said

Buggs Raplin

I'm against occupying Afghanistan at $4 million dollars an hour. Yep. Yessirree. That's my position


[thumbdown][thumbdown][thumbdown]Buggs/Chip, you're on record as a Trump supporter. What on earth do you think he's going to do in the Middle East? Withdraw? Quite the opposite.

Trump spokeswoman backtracks on claim Afghanistan was Obama's war


Buggs Raplin

He's not going help ISIS like Obama just did. An accident that we attacked the Syrian army? BS. Obama is aiding ISIS. ISIS is Obama's ally against Assad.


[alien][alien][alien]Putin's Assad sounds like one of the good guys to you? Like Trump, do you think that Putin is a good guy too?

“We are hurtling back into a Soviet abyss, into an information vacuum that spells death from our own ignorance. All we have left is the internet, where information is still freely available. For the rest, if you want to go on working as a journalist, it's total servility to Putin. Otherwise, it can be death, the bullet, poison, or trial—whatever our special services, Putin's guard dogs, see fit.”
― Anna Politkovskaya

Buggs Raplin

Yes, Putin is the victim of US mainstream media demonization, just like Trump. What you're going to get with Hillary, besides gun confiscation attempts, is a possible war with Russia. With Trump, you'll get negotiation. With Hillary, war.

Tim Russell

Putin is pure evil.


[scared][scared][scared]Chip-Buggs: "Yes, Putin is the victim of US mainstream media demonization, just like Trump."

Trump, Putin and their supporters belong to a 'basket of basket cases'.. either evil, stupid or flat-out nuts.

“People sometimes pay with their lives for saying aloud what they think. In fact, one can even get killed for giving me information. I am not the only one in danger. I have examples that prove it.”
― Anna Politkovskaya, killed by Putin for telling the truth about him in public.


If you watched Frontline recently you would know that ISIS came into being as a direct result of Bush's invasions in the middle east. This started long before Obama. But, you are right about one thing. It's not going to be ending anytime soon. Not even with the next President. You should be pointing fingers at where the problem originated and why, not at the person you believe should have ended it.


he recruits for isis every time he opens his mouth.

Buggs Raplin

This is Chip DeNure, Independent candidate for the state senate. This editorial is another attempt by the Tribune to frighten the public into raising the gas tax and fees. I oppose that. People are struggling; people are hurting, and they don't need more taxes. Let me clear. I don't care for the governor on many issues, but he's right on transportation. Delay the projects not begun. That's part of my plan. Put the emphasis on repairing our roads, not constructing new ones, especially where they're not wanted, like the north/south corridor. That project should be taken off the books to save $140 million dollars. (Careful readers will note the Tribune makes no mention of the corridor in this editorial.) We also need to audit the DOT. I bet there is a lot of wasteful spending going on. Finally, consider toll roads on the Illinois border. Let me reiterate. It's obvious my opponent, Jennifer Shilling, is for raising the gas tax and fees. I am opposed.


Bugsy of Bugsy your like ever republican out there trying to fix all our country's problem through tax cuts. That's why our country is in such a state we have broken bridges all around the country an plenty in Wisconsin that are ready to fall down if they're not repaired soon. Our roads all across the country are in desperate need of repair or replacement and none of this can be done through tax cuts. Everything cost more with every day that goes by and cutting taxes only makes matters worse when it comes to fixing our infrastructure in this state and country because it's costing us more every day we don't face it head on do something about it. Right now it could cost us only a few penny's extra in taxes but the longer we wait the more it's costing us

Buggs Raplin

This is where the Feds should help out the states. End the occupation of Afghanistan, and put that money towards our infrastructure. Please note I said nothing about cutting taxes in regard to the DOT. What I said is that I'm against raising them in connection with the DOT, and the UW-system as well. People are struggling; many are just getting by; I'm standing up for those folks. Jennifer Shilling won't; she's a tax and spend liberal.


Having lived in La Crosse for nearly 60 years it's hard to remember our city streets being as bad as they are now. Pot holes in September! Take 6th Street from City Hall to near Cass St. with its concrete coming apart at the seams with the cracks and holes being filled with blacktop until they deteriorate again, larger than before. On a street leading up to City Hall that is a disgrace, but there are many more just like it.
The city has cut back what they do in so many ways that people may not even realize such as no longer painting the curb yellow to mark the area where there is a fire hydrant. Who came up with that big money saving idea?
But with the millions being spent on downtown construction one would think there would be a better effort to repair the garbage streets we have to drive on.


[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup]The problem is graft at City Hall.. the Downtown Money Pit has ruined our city through several corrupt mayors and a corrupt City Council.


Practices, especially bribery, used to secure illicit gains in politics or business; corruption.

‘sweeping measures to curb official graft’


Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.