Wisconsin has about 114,800 miles of roads, of which about 11,800 constitute the State Highway System. This study assesses the condition and 10-year needs of Wisconsin‟s State Highway System. It 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 needs of other modes, which also have substantial needs that may exceed their resources.
Wisconsin's recent population growth has been slower than the national average, but the state is expected to grow modestly, about 5%, over the next decade. Vehicle registrations and motor vehicle travel are expected to grow at similar but slowing rates. However, given the likely increases in fuel efficiency, motor fuel use is likely to fall, reducing state motor fuel tax revenue.
Wisconsin's State Highway System is similar in overall condition to the U.S. average, 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.
The total estimated prudent need for the Wisconsin State Highway System over 10 years is about $28.56 B. This estimate would address most but not all of the repair needs and allow for some system expansion. Highway rehabilitation needs are estimated at about $9.25 B, of which pavement repair, $8.18 B, is the largest part. The need for capacity-related widening and new roads totals about $13.93 B. Maintenance and other improvements total about $3.57 B, and administration totals about $1.81 B. If the proposed widening of I-43 and I-94 in Milwaukee were subtracted, prudent needs would total about $28.15 B.
Fiscal resources likely to be available over the same period are estimated at about $18.63 B. This includes about $5.82 B in federal funds, $11.58 B in state funds and services, $43 M in local contributions, and $1.19 B in bonding. These estimates are summarized in Table ES1.
The estimated gap between likely resources and prudent needs is about $9.93 B, or about $993 M/year on average. (If I-43 and I-94 in Milwaukee were not widened, the gap between resources and prudent needs would be about $952/year). Further, the analysis shows an increasing shortfall compared to earlier studies – i.e. a $242 M per-year gap estimated in 2000 and a $589 M per-year gap estimated in 2006. However, if fuel-related resources decline sharply, this gap could be even greater. But even if all major new projects were deferred, or if all capacity-related widening were deferred, a gap of between $2.1 B and $3.8 B would still remain in meeting the needs for prudent pavement and bridge repairs, maintenance, signals, shoulders and other actions. In short, Wisconsin's 10-year likely resources for the State Highway System appear to cover only about 65% of its 10-year prudent needs. Since the magnitude of the shortfall appears to be growing, serious attention by elected and appointed officials to this issue is timely.
The increasing trend in the magnitude of the shortfall should be cause for concern, and obviously a gap of this magnitude will be difficult to close. This report briefly discusses general options for bringing needs into line with resources. This report does not assess various specific mechanisms for addressing this issue, but by highlighting the magnitude of the problem it hopes to focus discussion on it.
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