7/9/2016, Spooner Advocate – In presentations at the annual meeting of Northwest Regional Planning Commission June 28 in Hayward, three state representatives — one in the Senate and two in the Assembly — expressed concerns about northern Wisconsin’s transportation infrastructure.
All three — Sen. Janet Bewley (D-Ashland) of the 25th Senate District and Reps. Beth Meyers (D-Bayfield) of the 74th District and James Edming (R- Glen Flora) of the 87th District — agreed more needs to be done to address the state’s crumbling roads.
Bewley called transportation one of the “constant problems of northern Wisconsin,” and she said pressure is needed on Gov. Scott Walker to spend more on road improvements. She noted that if the governor does anything about transportation funding, he will have to raise revenue or make cuts somewhere else in the budget.
“This is his fourth budget and he has yet to increase transportation,” Bewley said. “I would caution you to not expect anything unless you really, really get out there and let him know how you feel. We cannot continue with our roads in the condition that they are in. We are now at a point where there are unsafe roads.”
Towns and counties, Bewley said, take road safety seriously, but when they do not have the funds, or the authority to raise funds, they feel powerless.
“As I travel over my district I’m hearing the same thing over and over again,” Meyers said. “Transportation issues — we need to address the transportation issues in our state. Our roads are crumbling. We are going to have to make some tough decisions and get some money for transportation infrastructure rebuilding. Not money that is on a bond (that has) our grandchildren pay for it in 10, 15 or 20 years. We need to make this a serious issue.”
Out of a concern for fines against hauling manure and the impact of heavy manure trucks on roads, Edming said he, along with Sen. Jerry Petrowski (R- Marathon) successfully sponsored a bill that allows pumping manure to fields via pipes in the right-of-way versus hauling the manure over roads.
At the same meeting, Tom Beekman, chief engineer of the Northwest Region of the Department of Transportation (DOT), said future road funding appears to be static. His department is anticipating no growth. The DOT has taken a “rehab” approach to roads, he said.
“We only fix what is broke,” he said.
Keith Langenhahn of the Wisconsin Counties Association (WCA) said he is working with the Wisconsin Town Association in what they call the “Just Fix It” campaign, a statewide effort asking for a long-term solution to transportation funding that does not depend on bonding.