Majority of Wisconsin roads, infrastructure in need of repair

Published On: Mar 27 2013 06:11:31 PM CDT   Updated On: Mar 27 2013 06:53:47 PM CDT
LA CROSSE, Wis. -

We are officially one week intro spring and that also means road construction season is getting under way.

But after years of putting off maintenance and underinvestment, a new report shows trillions of dollars will be needed by 2020 to make the necessary improvements to our nation's aging infrastructure.

Wisconsin's roads, bridges and infrastructure are in somewhat better condition than those in many other states. That doesn't mean reconstruction and repairs aren’t needed.

Take a drive on some of La Crosse County's roads and drivers will tell you they're not in the best condition.

“During the winter, the roads get very choppy with potholes and cracks,” said driver Jay Skrede.

“You try and dodge them as best you can,” said Kurt Nieman, another driver.

“You swerve and you do something instantaneous, and it kind of scares you a little bit,” said Heidi Aspenson, a driver.

A new study by the American Society of Civil Engineers said more than 70 percent of Wisconsin's roads are in poor condition and in need of repair.

The bad roads are costing drivers more than $280 a year for car maintenance.

La Crosse County Highway Commissioner Ron Chamberlain said poor road conditions don't come as a surprise.

“Increases in vehicle weight, vehicle loadings, increases in traffic, all of those are contributory to what we're seeing,” said Chamberlain.

He said of the more than 1,190 miles of public roads and streets in the county, about 50 percent of them need repairs and maintenance.

He said with high-efficiency cars bringing in less money through the gas tax, and property tax revenue not enough to cover the growing costs, the county can't keep up.

“The funding streams are not going up into comparison to where the cost of the maintenance and construction are,” said Chamberlain.

That means drivers just have to be patient.

“What do we say to the public? We say, ‘We're doing the best that we can do,’” said Chamberlain.

And that's a message these motorists can understand.

“It’s unfortunate, but I don't know if it can be blamed on condition of roads and infrastructure and lack thereof,” said Skrede. “It is what it is, and we just have to deal with it as we have those conditions.”

Aside from the routine maintenance of sealing cracks, potholes and shoulders, the county is currently working on a $5 million construction project on County Road OA near Barre Mills.

The project will include realignment of the road and widening of an existing bridge.

The report also said more than 1,000 bridges in Wisconsin are structurally deficient.
Bridges typically have a lifespan of about 40 years.

Of the more than 120 bridges in La Crosse County, Chamberlain said about 10 of them need repair.