I hear regularly from people I represent who want affordable high-speed internet, safe roads and bridges, and clean water and air. Sometimes I have good news for them, sometimes not. One piece of good news is that Congress recently passed a bipartisan $1.2 trillion package that shores up the nation’s infrastructure.
The United States has not had a major infrastructure investment since the 1950s, when President Eisenhower authorized the Interstate Highway System. He sold the investment to the American people on the need to move missiles across the country quickly during the Cold War.
Today, Wisconsin has 929 bridges and 1,949 miles of highway in poor condition, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers, which gave Wisconsin roads a D+ on our 2020 infrastructure report card. Nobody should be proud of a D+.
A major funding source for road maintenance is the gas tax, which Wisconsin has not increased since 2006. The federal government stopped increasing the gas tax in 1993, and it has remained at 18 cents per gallon ever since.
Since 2006, Wisconsin has relied on higher vehicle registration fees, along with borrowing money … which taxpayers will pay back with interest.
Many roads and highways are patched for the short-term only to cost us more in the long-term. Constructing a two-lane highway can cost $2 million to $5 million per mile, depending if it’s rural or urban. A new four-lane highway costs $4 million to $10 million per mile.
As anyone who travels their city streets or town roads knows, we are underfunding our roadways. Since 2011, commute times have increased 2.8 percent in Wisconsin. On average, each driver pays an extra $637 a year by driving on roads in need of repair, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers.
The Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act is expected to bring Wisconsin $5.2 billion in highway funds and $225 million for bridge replacement and repairs over five years.
Here’s what else is in it for you:
§ Currently 5.5 percent of Wisconsin residents live in areas where there is no broadband infrastructure. Under the Congressional act, Wisconsin will receive at least $100 million to provide access to the 318,000 Wisconsin residents who lack it and help low-income families afford access.
§ In the last decade, Wisconsin experienced 16 extreme weather events costing the state $10 billion. Under the new federal law, Wisconsin should receive more than $20 million over five years, along with housing weatherization funds which will reduce heating bills for families.
§ Wisconsin expects to receive $841 million over five years to improve the water infrastructure in all communities, including the replacement of pipes and service lines containing lead.
§ To address the climate crisis and support manufacturing jobs, Wisconsin is expected to receive $79 million for an electric vehicle charging network. Ford announced a cable that can charge a vehicle in five minutes. Companies like Kwik Trip are looking to these charging stations as alternatives to fossil fuels.
A strong infrastructure translates to a good quality of life. That includes reliable, affordable broadband; affordable energy; clean water; and efficient bus, rail, airports, and ports.
A solid infrastructure will allow our state to expand economically. It will allow individuals and families to thrive financially.
Congress was able to come up with a bipartisan bill to shore up our infrastructure. Let’s now hope that at the state level we can work together to use these funds to do what’s best for Wisconsin.