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View from around the state: Turn focus to state’s crumbling roads

Yogi Berra was right. You can observe a lot by watching.

Just observe the priorities of the Wisconsin Legislature. It continues to focus on social issues that may or may not need fixing.

Meanwhile, observe the priorities of the Wisconsin Counties Association, which met in La Crosse last week. The counties association knows exactly what needs to be fixed — Wisconsin’s crumbling roads.

Seventy percent of the state’s roads are rated mediocre to poor by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

How do we rate nationally? Only two states — Illinois and Connecticut — rank lower.

We should be ashamed.

The counties association and the state’s Transportation Development Association unveiled the “Just Fix It” campaign during the conference here.

The Tribune published a photo of County Highway YY to accompany the story — a 41-year-old stretch of road that officials say has “alligatored.”

It’s wonderful when we have to make up words to describe how lousy our roads are.

That road won’t be fixed at least until 2020, under the current schedule.

County highway Commissioner Ron Chamberlain says county roads need $90 million of work — and the budget last year was $5.68 million.

That math doesn’t work. The alligators are winning.

Chamberlain said more than half of the county’s 285 miles of road need replacing. You can pick a letter in the alphabet, and whether it’s HD, DS or just about any other letter, you can bet that road needs work.

Let’s remember that this didn’t just happen.

Ten years ago, legislators ignored warnings and took the easy way out when they stopped raising the gas tax with inflation. This year, they rejected Gov. Scott Walker’s plan to borrow $1.3 billion for roads and instead approved $850 million. And they made sure that, despite funding shortfalls, there wouldn’t be delays in big projects in southeast Wisconsin.

Even some of the Republicans from our area voted against the budget — in part because of the way the Legislature thumbed its nose at the transportation needs of western Wisconsin.

Once again, the Legislature kicked the can down the road — and it fell into a pothole.

— From the La Crosse Tribune

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