6/12/18 – WQOW News 18 (Eau Claire)

Western Wisconsin (WQOW)- Over the last few years, data has shown Wisconsin has some of the worst roads in the country. Our road quality is 44th in the nation, according to U-S News and World Report.

Tuesday, the Transportation Development Association along and the Eau Claire County Highway Commissioner packed local elected officials and county representatives in a bus, so they could feel what it’s like to drive on them every day.

State road funding is $870 million short of the $2.4 billion two-year budget needed to fix all of Wisconsin’s roads, impacting streets all over the state.

“There’s rutting, the pavement starts to crack and break up like we see here even though we’ve done some maintenance on it, and we’ve sealed over it, we’ve chip sealed it and now we’re at the point where we are patching it and trying to hold it together,” said Eau Claire County Highway Commissioner, Jon Johnson.

They rate the roads on a scale of 1 through 10, with 10 being the best.

“We’re at a 5.4 right now. It was at 4.2, and we want to improve that to a 6 which requires about a $6.2 million investment every year,” said Johnson.

Johnson said all that money is borrowed.

That’s one reason he believes the roads are so bad is because the cost of construction is up and funding isn’t.

“We have revenue limits that we have at the local level with the levy caps and then on top of that we only get so much funding back from the state through their funding program,” said Johnson.

Johnson said of the 420 miles of roads we have in Eau Claire County, 140 need replacing, and even brand-new roads need maintenance.

“For county roads we’re hoping to get a 30-year life out of it when it’s properly maintained,” said Johnson.

Bridges are expected to last 75 to 100 years, but a bridge in Lafayette didn’t make it that long when it almost collapsed last month.

“This bridge was scheduled for replacement in 2021, obviously we can’t wait that long, there’s 900 cars a day out here,” said Chippewa County Highway Commissioner, Brian Kelley.

Kelley hopes to replace the bridge next spring.

The nonpartisan legislative fiscal bureau found Wisconsin’s roads are expected to get even worse in the next decade.