April 23, 2014

Rethinking transportation spending

A new report argues Wisconsin should take another look at how it spends its transportation dollars.

WISPIRG director Bruce Speight says a study by the group found almost 30 percent of the State Transportation Improvement Plan (STIP) has been earmarked for new road capacity. He says the focus on new roads is surprising, considering the fact Wisconsinites have been logging fewer miles behind the wheel over the past few years. Speight notes that slow population growth projected for the next two decades also raises questions about how badly new roads are needed.

Speight says Wisconsin’s spending is out of pace with the expected demand when compared to other states. For example, he says Minnesota has double the projected population growth, but is only spending six percent of its funds on new roads.

According to the report, Wisconsin ranks 11th for the percentage of STIP dollars being committed to new road capacity and highway expansions, while the Badger State comes in at 28th for projected population growth.

Speight notes that a 2009 report found 43 percent of Wisconsin’s existing roads were in “less than good” condition, while over 1,142 bridges were found structurally deficient. He says the focus should be on upgrading those existing roads and expanding transit options, while cutting wasteful spending on “extravagant” highway projects.

AUDIO: Andrew Beckett reports (1:26)