Local leaders take a bumpy ride to see roads in need of repair

Locally elected leaders and other stakeholders are calling for more funds to repair roads across the state. More than two-thirds of the roads in La Crosse County need some form of repair, which is costing municipalities millions of dollars to fix.

The leaders took a roughly 50-mile ride around the county Tuesday to see and feel how bad the roads can be. While they are able to make some repairs here and there along the route, they said they’ve still got a long way to go.

“We’ve got 282 miles of road. Right now, we’ve got 180 miles of it that’s in need of improvement,” said Ron Chamberlain, highway commissioner for the La Crosse County Highway Department.

Chamberlain said the proper road work needs to be done at the exact right time.

“Under the current funding constraints, that’s just simply not possible. We don’t have the funds to do that,” Chamberlain said.

There’s $101 million worth of repair work needed on county highways alone. Because they’re only able to afford a fraction of that, others are paying the price.

“As the roads deteriorate, the cost of maintaining the components, such as suspension and tires and other components on the bus, goes up exponentially,” said Richard Kline, transportation director for the West Salem School District.

Some bus parts cost hundreds of dollars to replace. Kline said repairs are becoming more frequent and the district doesn’t have the money to sustain that.

“Right now, we just gotta kind of plow ahead and make do with what we have,” Kline said.

Some small municipalities have been able to pull together enough funding to make some needed repairs.

“The town has put this off due to the cost and the need to maintain the other roads in the town. But it has become a priority,” said Kathy Warzynski, a town of Holland supervisor.

Heram Road in the town of Holland will be completely rebuilt this summer with the help of state funding. The municipality will still have to pay about $166,000 for the nearly mile-long project.

“Considering we haven’t been able to work on that road since 2005, I’m sure the residents who live along that road will be really appreciative,” Warzynski said.

Now it’s left up to the other communities to pinch pennies and find funding in any way they can.

The Transportation Development Association of Wisconsin, which organized the event, has planned five more “Rough Road Tours” around the state. Those are scheduled to happen over the summer.