Report: Wis. faces 10-year funding gap

WPRI estimated resources and needs and found gaping hole

News AASHTO Journal, WPRI June 27, 2011
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Expected resources are likely to fall almost $1 billion short of the "prudent" highway needs of Wisconsin between 2011 and 2020, according to a new study from the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute (WPRI).

Even if all major new projects or capacity-related road widenings are deferred and work limited to basic projects such as pavement and bridge repairs, maintenance and shoulder and signal work, a gap of between $2.1 billion and $3.8 billion would still remain, the researchers found.

"If this report sparks discussion among Wisconsin's policy makers and transportation experts on how to address the daunting funding gap, we will consider it a success," WPRI President George Lightbourn said in a statement. "We're not recommending how Wisconsin officials address the gap—only that they do. That's imperative."

The report estimates the costs of addressing deficiencies, adding new or expanded facilities, bringing the system up to prudent standards, maintenance and administration. The report then estimates the resources likely to be available for system repair, maintenance and improvement, and the likely gap between resources and needs. It does not cover the needs of localities (counties, towns, municipalities) or the needs of other modes, which also have substantial needs that may exceed their resources.

Wisconsin's State Highway System is similar in overall condition to the U.S. average, said WPRI, but the higher road classes (interstates, urban freeways and other principal arterials) are in better shape than minor arterials and collectors. Progress has been made in improving the system, and many elements are in better shape than in the past. However, significant portions of the system are in need of repair, replacement, expansion or modernization. About 57% of pavements are judged to potentially require treatment, 52% of bridges need repair, 333 miles need congestion-related widening, and 809 miles of new roads and expansions have also been identified.

WPRI's 72-page report, "The Wisconsin State Highway System: Needs and Resources 2011-2020," is available at

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