Wisconsin lawmakers discuss boost to road funding

| 8/30/2006

A Wisconsin legislative panel has recommended that the state boost transportation spending by 40 percent a year to cover longtime funding shortages. No solutions to come up with the needed revenue were offered.

The Committee on Transportation Needs and Financing unanimously endorsed a draft report that said the state needs another $698.2 million annually for roads and mass transit programs.

“Cost inflation resulting from increased world-wide demand for energy and construction materials (are) seriously eroding the purchasing power of our highway construction budget,” committee co-chairman Rep. Mark Gottlieb said in a written statement. “In the last three years alone, highway construction costs have increased by 31 percent.”

Gottlieb, R-Port Washington, said potential solutions likely will be discussed this fall. Road funding needs also are expected to draw considerable attention during state budget talks in the next legislative session.

Increasing the funding as proposed by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau and endorsed by the committee would bring the annual transportation budget to $2.41 billion – up from $1.71 billion, The Associated Press reported. Nearly 80 percent of the added revenue would be earmarked for highway construction.

While the panel prepares for discussions on how to generate revenue they will explore ways to reduce the cost of road work, including privatizing state highway maintenance and repair and allowing businesses to operate out of six of Wisconsin’s 32 rest areas, The AP reported.

The remaining 26 rest areas are not eligible for commercial activity due to federal restrictions for sites located on the interstate or a highway designated to be an interstate.