9/26/2016, Wisconsin State Journal – Our nation and most states, including Wisconsin, are facing a serious challenge: Their major road networks, primarily constructed between the 1950s and 1970s, need significant rehabilitation or rebuilding.
These costly projects are due at a time when dramatic increases in vehicle fuel efficiency are allowing road users to pay less in gas tax while putting more wear and tear on the system.
In Wisconsin, vehicle miles traveled has rebounded to pre-recession levels, increasing 3 percent in the last three years. During that same time, the amount of gas tax revenue per mile driven has decreased by about 1 percent, contributing to a shortfall of nearly $1 billion in the state’s biennial transportation budget.
AAA has long advocated for responsible, sustainable and equitable highway financing. We believe this proposal charts the wrong course for Wisconsin, and we urge lawmakers to adopt a long-term funding plan that meets the current and future needs of the state’s transportation system.
While delaying projects may seem like a sensible option, doing so without a plan for eventually shoring up revenues will set off a chain reaction that pushes critical work further into the future, when it will be dangerously overdue and more expensive to complete. Revenue shortfalls in subsequent budget cycles are likely to be even larger as older vehicles continue to be replaced by ever more fuel efficient models. Additional delays will pile on top of previously postponed work every year unless lawmakers take proactive steps to address the underlying funding challenge.
Wisconsin could balance its transportation budget without project delays and still retain most of that advantage.
A recent AAA study found that the average cost to repair damage caused by potholes is $300. According to our research, motorists who incurred this expense did so an average of three times in the last five years.
Delaying the necessary repairs and rehabilitation of Wisconsin’s roads is not in the best interests of motorists. Doing so will only make the problems worse and the potential solutions less palatable. The time for action is now.