There are too many bumps in the path to road repairs

Jim Baumgart  Sheboygan County Supervisor

Having had the privilege of serving as an elected official for some 20 years, one can appreciate the many difficulties of the job. But it also provides a person a fairly good understanding to know when elected officials may be opting to take a pass on doing the hard work that really needs to be done. Roads, bridges, transportation and funding is a good example.

A case in point, seemly to distract the public as they hit a deepening number of potholes showing up on our highways and as they drive across an increased number of aging bridges, the legislature is off spending time passing a Constitutional Amendment that puts limits on the transportation fund. As our roads get worse, rather then act, they are kicking the real pothole, bridge and roadway issues down the proverbial road.

Last week this column took time to detailed the steady decrease in state funding counties received for road work in recent years and the increased cost to counties doing the road repair/ reconstruction (salt, gas, oil/ blacktop, equipment were some mentioned). It also reported that Sheboygan County has about 450 miles of county roads, of which we should be doing repairs on about 30 miles each year, but are only able to do about 8 to 15 miles a year. It also said Sheboygan County, to reach repairing about 22 miles of roads during each of the last two years, had to borrow the money through its general funds to reach that number.

One needs to keep the eye on the ball. In this case the issue we need to keep our eye on is maintaining our roads, bridges and providing enough money to meet those goals. What we need to do is keep our eyes on getting the job done. It is the same ball the legislature and governor needs to follow - hit the ball and no distractions please!

As a major distraction, let me refer readers to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial of Monday, February 25, 2013. They say .... “we’re not convinced that a constitutional amendment is needed to protect the transportation fund.” They go on to point out voters will get to vote on that issue in 2014 but feel “it could be too restrictive tying (future) legislators’ hands and judgment in an emergency.” The editorial goes on to suggest there may be 5.2 million reasons that makes the transportation fund special - that is, “interests related to road-building contributed $5.2 million to past and current legislators between 2010 and mid-2012". While the constitutional amendment may be a “bone” thrown to the state’s road builders, it will not fix one mile of road in Sheboygan County or any other Wisconsin county. The Journal Sentinel editorial did provide a number of suggestions on how the legislature could better protect its road funds without going to the extreme.

So, next year, when you are driving in and around the deep roadway potholes, maybe across some aging bridges, trying to get to the election polls to vote for a constitution amendment in support of the transportation/gas fund, that, remember will not likely provide you a mile of better roads. You’ve probably have taken your eye off the ball (the job of building & fixing roads), but you’ve likely been joined by the road builders.

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