February 2017 News & JFI Update 2/28/2017
Just Fix It Update 
TDA Issues Audit Fact Sheet

Yes to further DOT reforms, No to further construction delays.

The Legislative Audit Bureau formally presented its audit of the Department of Transportation’s state highway program on February 21 to the Joint Legislative Audit Committee.

TDA is on record supporting this audit and believes the recommended reforms should be implemented as soon as possible. In fact, we believe there may be additional reforms
beyond those included in the audit that should be pursued.

At the hearing, however, there were many questions raised that, from our standpoint, were either not answered or were answered unsatisfactorily. read more
Thompson: Just Fix State’s Roads
Craig Thompson
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, February 1, 2017
Note: This piece ran in papers around the state.

Wisconsin has some of the worst roads in the country. That has been confirmed yet again by the Wisconsin Legislative Audit Bureau. In comparison to our neighbors in the Midwest, the condition of our roads is embarrassing. The audit illustrates that about 32 percent of Wisconsin’s highways are in good condition. In comparison, Indiana has the best ranking in the Midwest of 75 percent in good condition, and Iowa is the lowest non-Wisconsin state at 55 percent.

Saying that Wisconsin is lagging behind would be like saying the Cleveland Browns didn’t make it to the Super Bowl this year. The gap is staggering.

Also, consider this: Wisconsin has the second most transportation-dependent economy in the country. Indiana’s economy is the first. read more

Wall Street Journal: States Push to Raise Gasoline Taxes
February 21, 2017

Tennessee and Alaska are among the states looking to tax motorists more after decades with no increase

Nearly 20 states, with both Republican and Democratic governors, have raised gas taxes or recalculated gas-tax formulas in recent years to generate funds for upgrades to aging roads and bridges. This legislative season, at least a dozen more are considering such measures, said Kevin Pula, a transportation policy specialist at the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Pushing states to this point are, on one side, rising construction costs, and on the other lower tax receipts from declining pump sales, which are themselves the result of more fuel-efficient vehicles and a slow economic recovery.  read more

News from around the Nation

$2 Billion Needed to Repair WI Bridges

There are 185 million daily crossings on nearly 56,000 structurally deficient U.S. bridges, with about 1,900 of those bridges on the Interstate Highway System. This is according to the recently released 2017 ARTBA Bridge Report.

In Wisconsin, 1,232 – or 9% – of the state’s 14,230 bridges are classified as structurally deficient. This means one or more of the key bridge elements, such as the deck, superstructure or substructure, is considered to be in "poor" or worse condition.

In addition, 783 bridges of Wisconsin bridges, or 6%, are classified as functionally obsolete, meaning the bridge does not meet current design standards. And 451 bridges are posted for load, which restricts the size and weight of vehicles crossing the structure.

The state has identified needed repairs on 2,013 bridges, with an estimated cost of $2 billion.

While bridges rated structurally deficient are typically safe, they require increased monitoring.

Bridge failure in Wisconsin
Weather was a possible contributing factor in a recent failure of a 100-year old bridge in Buffalo County, which resulted in two separate accidents. Neither driver sustained serious injuries.

"The south abutment failed," Bob Platteter, Buffalo County highway commissioner, said. "We don't know exactly what made it fail yet. We suspect it has something to do with the flood from last summer. There was probably an undermining going on that we didn't know about through the inspections. With the frost coming out of the ground now plus all of the rain that we had yesterday, there could have been an accumulation of things that made that abutment move."

The bridge, built in 1917 was rated structurally deficient and functionally obsolete.

Indiana House Republicans Pass Gas Tax Increase  

The Indiana House approved a 10-cent gas tax increase, despite opposition from House Democrats and fiscal conservatives.

The Republican-majority chamber voted 61-36 for the measure. Of those who voted for the increase, 18 had previously taken a pledge not to increase taxes with Americans for Tax Reform.

The gas tax increase is part of a plan which would provide $1.2 billion in additional revenue each year. read more

US Traffic Continues to Grow, Sets New Record 

For the fifth straight year, the number of miles driven in the U.S. increased according to a press release issued by the Federal Highway Administration.  Preliminary numbers show vehicle miles traveled topped 3.2 trillion miles in 2016, an increase of 2.8 percent over 2015.

Data, published in FHWA’s latest “Traffic Volume Trends” report shows U.S. drivers logged an additional 87.5 billion miles in 2016.

This data also shows the number of miles traveled in Wisconsin increased last year.

FHWA says the continuing growth in traffic “underscores the demands facing America’s roads and bridges, and reaffirms calls for greater investment in surface transportation infrastructure.”

Trump Infrastructure Plan Likely to Take a Backseat until 2018

A packed legislative calendar is leading many in Washington, DC to speculate that an infrastructure bill will not be ready for primetime until 2018.  Congressional Republicans have prioritized repealing ObamaCare, overhauling the tax code and securing the U.S.-Mexico border over infrastructure. read more

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