Karen Madden, of the Wisconsin Rapids Tribune, recently reported, Wisconsin Roads Third-Worst In Nation.
The numbers mark a dramatic decline in road quality. As recently as 11 years ago, Wisconsin's roads ranked No. 22 in the nation, and their deterioration affects almost every industry and motorist in the state, according to the study commissioned by the Local Government of Wisconsin Institute.
Poor roads in the Milwaukee area cost drivers $700 a year in extra vehicle repairs, according to the study; in the Madison area, road conditions cost drivers an additional $615 in annual tire wear, maintenance and accelerated deterioration. Nationally, substandard road conditions cost drivers an average of $377 per year, the study found.
The primary culprit: State budget cuts that have slashed the amount of money dedicated to repairing both state highways and local roads, which has left fewer than half of Wisconsin's roads rated as "good" or better, the report found.
The numbers come as no surprise to Emily Wattson, a 48-year-old Wisconsin Rapids woman who recently hit a pothole in Rudolph and wrecked the suspension on her 2008 car.
"I paid more than $500 to get it fixed," Wattson said. "It threw the car out of alignment, ruined a tire and did some other stuff.
"I don't think anybody is doing anything about the roads."
Bad roads hurt manufacturing, farming and transportation, three industries that are vital to Wisconsin's economy, according to the Local Government Institute study entitled Filling Potholes: A New Look at Funding Local Transportation in Wisconsin. The group is a coalition of members of the Wisconsin Counties Association, League of Wisconsin Municipalities, Wisconsin Towns Association and Urban Alliance.
The study found that if the state's roads aren't brought back into good condition, it could harm Wisconsin's struggling economy, which is rebounding from the Great Recession more slowly than other states in the Midwest. Companies that are considering moving to Wisconsin could choose to relocate in states with better infrastructure that doesn't cost them as much in annual repairs.Yet, Republican Wisconsin legislators are proposing cutting road projects. (Which is understandable for any new road projects. But with the conditions of the current roads we have, it's borderline criminal to not repair them.)
If Wisconsin actually wants to be "open for business" we need to be maintaining, repairing and improving our infrastructure to attract businesses and workers. Defunding rail and road projects, alongside suppressing worker wages through union-busting, does nothing to improve the long-term health of Wisconsin's workforce or its built environment.
Despite all their bluster, Republican policies are actually hurting Wisconsin in every way possible. Wisconsin can't keep cutting off its own nose to spite its face.