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Northcentral Wisconsin drivers feel pain of traveling on underfunded state roadsSubmitted: 06/01/2016
Northcentral Wisconsin drivers feel pain of traveling on underfunded state roads
Story By Ben Meyer

MOSINEE - Only drivers in Illinois and Connecticut have to suffer on worse roads than drivers here in Wisconsin. Seventy-one percent of Wisconsin's roads are in mediocre or poor shape, according to a survey by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

People in northcentral Wisconsin feel the pain.


Price County Highway Commissioner Don Grande says less than 10 percent of his road system is rated "good" or better. But he doesn't have the money from the federal, state, or county government to make major repairs.

At current funding levels, Price County can only replace its road system every 200 years.

"It's extremely frustrating that we can't keep up with the economic demand in Price County," Grande said. "Our system is in such poor shape that we're just throwing anything we can at it just to glue it together."

Grande and dozens of others met in Mosinee on Wednesday to discuss poor roads and funding challenges.

Other communities face similar frustrations. The City of Marshfield will ask residents to raise their own taxes in August to pay for roadwork.

"Oftentimes, when we talk about improving parks or other services, the public will say, 'That's great, but before you do that, what about the streets in my neighborhood? When are they going to be upgraded? When are they going to be maintained more?'" said Marshfield City Administrator Steve Barg.

Marshfield hopes to raise $6.8 million through the property tax referendum to make long-term fixes to roads.

"The long-term success is whether or not you can provide a good long-term surface 30, 40, or 50 years out that's going to be durable," Barg said. "That's the bigger issue, as opposed to just keeping up on the filling of cracks and the potholes."

Many people at the Mosinee meeting, which was hosted by the Transportation Development Association of Wisconsin, complained that last year's state budget did little to help transportation funding for northern Wisconsin.

"Some of the similarities we've heard is, one is, frustration. It shouldn't be this hard," said TDA Executive Director Craig Thompson. "Other states are figuring out a way to fund their transportation system. Wisconsin hasn't been able to yet."

Wisconsin legislators delayed budget talks for four weeks last year while debating the transportation budget. They ended up cutting millions from what Gov. Scott Walker first wanted to spend.

Even so, hundreds of millions will go to repairing the Zoo Interchange in the Milwaukee area.

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