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Campaign to tell lawmakers: Just Fix It

With a relatively new campaign, industry officials are hoping that business owners and local officeholders will be able to succeed at what roadbuilders and state officials have tried to do for years:

Persuade lawmakers to raise additional money for transportation projects.

To that end, the organizers of the Just Fix It campaign — started early this year as a way to demonstrate grassroots support for roads, rails and other means of getting around — plan to hold a series of meetings around the state starting next week. The first event will take place on Tuesday in the La Crosse area and will be followed by others on subsequent days in the Eau Claire, Green Bay, Waukesha, Janesville and Wausau areas.

Organizers say one of the main goals is to show that a strong transportation system benefits more than just the roadbuilders and Wisconsin Department of Transportation officials who are often easily dismissed as acting out of crass economic interests when they call for more money to be raised for highways and other infrastructure. Craig Thompson, executive director of the Transportation Development Association of Wisconsin, said lawmakers need to be reminded of just how much businesses depend on being able to easily move goods and people from place to place.


Organizers of the Just Fix It campaign will embark Tuesday on a series of meetings meant to drum up support for repairing and expanding Wisconsin’s transportation system. Each of the meetings will be preceded by breakfast, starting at 7:30 a.m., and last from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m.

The meetings’ dates and places are:

  • May 17 in the La Crosse area at the Stoney Creek Hotel & Conference Center, 3060 S. Kinney Coulee Road, Onalaska
  • May 19 in the Eau Claire area at the Chippewa Valley Regional Airport, 3800 Starr Ave.
  • May 24 in the Green Bay area at Foth, 2121 Innovation Court, De Pere
  • May 25 in the Waukesha area at the Milwaukee County Department of Transportation Administration Building, 10320 W. Watertown Plank Road, Wauwatosa
  • May 26 in the Janesville area at the Janesville Conference Center at the Holiday Inn Express, 3100 Wellington Place
  • June 1 at the Wausau area’s Central Wisconsin Airport, 100 CWA Drive, Mosinee.

To reserve a seat, send an email to [email protected] or call 608-256-7044.

Thompson said his hope is that the Just Fix It meetings will be attended not only by local officials and other policymakers but also business owners. He said talks are still afoot over what the next steps will be, but the plan is to eventually relay the opinions expressed at the events to state lawmakers.

“We are going to have a roundtable with local leaders and businesses about what transportation challenges they are seeing and how that affects business and the bottom line,” Thompson said.

The Just Fix It campaign has already begun using technology to give the public a means of directly showing lawmakers their support. Anyone can sign up at to receive monthly messages, drawn up by the Transportation Development Association, that can then be sent on to elected representatives using email, Facebook or Twitter.

Mark O’Connell, executive director of the Wisconsin Counties Association, said his hope is that the massive show of support will give lawmakers the sense that they will have a “safe harbor” at election time. Too often, he said, legislators shy away from raising gas taxes or other sources of revenue simply out of a misplaced fear that they might lose their seats.

“We want to say, ‘It’s OK, and you are not going to get unelected for that,’” O’Connell said. “The Just Fix It is campaign is saying that there is this safe harbor because everybody is in” support of transportation.

Thompson said the benefits to business should already be apparent. He noted the announcement last week that IKEA plans to build a store just south of Milwaukee in Oak Creek. Local officials have said the recent addition of an interchange connecting Interstate 94 to Oak Creek’s Drexel Avenue played a large role in attracting the company.

“We’ve had a lot of studies and commissions, and we have a lot of numbers that bear out what our transportation problems are,” he said. “But for a lot of folks, what we need is the story behind those numbers.”

Thompson was among a group of industry and state officials who, in 2011, formed a committee charged with identifying flaws in the state’s transportation system and proposing ways to mend them. Two years later, the Transportation Finance and Policy Commission released a report finding that the state would need to raise an additional $5.8 billion in the next 10 years to simply maintain what it already has; among the suggested means of raising that money was a 5-cent increase in the state’s gas tax.

Lawmakers never took up the proposal, though.

About Dan Shaw, [email protected]

Dan Shaw is the associate editor at The Daily Reporter. He can be reached at [email protected] or at 414-225-1807.

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