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WisDOT secretary seeks input on funding transportation

Wisconsin invests more than a billion dollars a year in highways and local roads throughout the state.

But as traditional sources of funding for those projects — gas taxes and transportation fees — fall, so does the state’s ability to pay for those infrastructure improvements vital to the economy of Wisconsin.

That reality has Wisconsin Department of Transportation Secretary Mark Gottlieb traveling the state to gather ideas on how to maintain the state’s 12,000 miles of highways and 103,000 miles of local roads.

Gottlieb was in Superior last week for a town hall meeting to talk about transportation.

After a presentation about the importance of transportation to the state’s economy, and the challenges the state faces in funding highway improvements, and gathering public comment.

“I think we’ve had some really good questions that have been asked about how we kind of got where we are and the different options that are available to sort of solve the problem,” Gottlieb said in an interview following four of the nine sessions.

The problem is funding highway programs through traditional means.

After all, the state’s gas tax, which pays for a significant share of the state’s highway programs, hasn’t increased since 2006. Couple with vehicles that get better gas mileage, revenue is declining.

And funding for highway projects decreased 2.2 percent for 2013-2015 from the last biennial budget.

“We haven’t really compiled all of the comments that we’ve gotten,” the secretary said. “We will be compiling those and posting them on our Transportation Moves Wisconsin website.”

Some of the concerns expressed so far, he said include investment in non-highway programs such as public transit. Others shared concern about the condition of highways after a challenging winter statewide, Gottlieb said.

“We’ve got some comments from people that they’re willing to invest in transportation if they know the money is going to stay in transportation,” Gottlieb said. “We made the statement that we’ve got this vote coming up on a constitutional amendment in November that would prohibit future raids on transportation fees.”

The secretary said people seemed to nod their head in agreement that if they are going to spend money on transportation fees, the money should stay in transportation.

“There’s a variety of options that are being talked about,” Gottlieb said of ideas to sustain the state’s ability to maintain its system of highways and local roads. “We want to go around and hear what people are saying before we talk about individual options.”

For more information about Transportation Moves Wisconsin, go to