The transportation debate: Critics say Scott Walker’s record on road funding will be an issue this fall
The Cap Times
By Katelyn Ferral, Apr 4, 2018
The orange construction barrels are a summertime nightmare for Tom Diehl.
Every year they line highway routes to Diehl’s business, the Tommy Bartlett Show attraction in Wisconsin Dells, warning customers from Minnesota and Chicago that more time in the car is ahead.
Despite determining that the Interstate 39/90 corridor would face congestion from escalating traffic, the state halted an effort a year ago to expand the interstate from Madison to Wisconsin Dells, opting to fund other projects.
That decision has come with congestion and means tourists spend less time and money in the Dells, one of Wisconsin’s top-grossing vacation spots. It is becoming a barrier to getting them to come at all, said Diehl, who has worked on tourism and economic development initiatives under Republican administrations for more than 30 years and served as chair of the Governor’s Council on Tourism from 1986 to 1999.
“I can’t tell you the amount of negative comments we are getting from people: ‘We are sick of the orange barrels. We are sick of waiting,’” Diehl said.
Diehl’s frustration is one shared by business owners around the state, Democrats and a contingent of Republican leaders who point to a growing fiscal and infrastructure problem: Wisconsin’s roads continue to get worse as the state spends more of its money on debt interest with no revenue growth in sight.