Wisconsin towns creating gravel roads due to state transportation cuts

March 13, 2017

The state's 8.5% budget increase for local transportation is expected to do little more than fund road maintenance for small towns

Officials in small Wisconsin towns say construction costs and state budget cuts have caused them to convert their blacktop roads into gravel roads.

State funding for local governments in the form of municipal aid has been cut over the last 10 years as local transportation funding has remained flat, Wisconsin Public Radio reported. The state has also limited how much towns can raise from local property taxes—restrictions that grew stricter under Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

The governor has proposed increasing local transportation aid by 8.5% in the next budget. According to the Wisconsin Towns Association, it would translate to about $10,000 for the average town, enough for road maintenance, but not much else.

Wisconsin roads were ranked fourth worst in the nation last year.

Rebuilding a damaged road with gravel is cheaper than pavement up front, but a gravel road’s maintenance costs are much higher.

Northfield has turned 12 miles of paved roads into gravel since 2010, according to Richard Erickson, town chairman. Two years ago, the town of 600 in Jackson County repaired the intersection of a road, but the blacktop they were able to order only lasted two-tenths of a mile.

A recent state audit found that about 14% of local paved roads in Jackson County were in poor or very poor condition. Towns maintain 62,000 miles of roads in Wisconsin.