Legislators need to find a better balance between major new road projects and road maintenance in the proposed biennial budget.
Think the snowplow was slow getting to your street this winter? Think the roads in your neighborhood have too many potholes? If you think it’s bad now, wait till next year.
At least that’s the fear driven by Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed biennial budget, which would widen the gap between what the state spends on new road projects and what it spends on local road maintenance. The Legislature should close that disparity and strive to find a better balance between new highways and maintaining the ones we have.
And local communities should be working harder to identify ways to share services and cut costs.
Walker’s budget plan wisely moves up reconstruction of the Zoo Interchange, the state’s busiest, and reduces its projected cost and footprint. Other big road projects may be worth doing as well and so are some other budgetary changes Walker has proposed.
But his proposed cuts in general transportation aid need another look, because they could translate into less local road maintenance.
While the state is providing a modest increase in its spending on maintenance of state highways, general transportation aid will be cut around 10% for most local governments. That’s money they use to help them maintain local roads. Local officials are concerned that Walker’s promised savings from reductions in the cost of public-employee benefits won’t cover the loss in state aid.
That could mean layoffs of snowplow drivers and road workers, which could mean less plowing, less grass-cutting along roadways and fewer fixes.