Transportation and Infrastructure
“It’s time for a long-term transportation plan and adults in the driver’s seat of our state – that’s why I’ll work to fix our roads and invest in the critical infrastructure needed to build a great economy and a great place to live.”
Providing transportation and connections is one of government’s most basic and critical responsibilities. Without the ability to move people, goods, and information around freely, our economy and daily lives grind to a halt. We need to be able to move freely around our communities, state, and country – and that means investing in our infrastructure.
Under Scott Walker, Wisconsin’s roads deteriorated to among the worst in the nation. Deaths on our increasingly dangerous infrastructure system were up 20 percent since 2014. Injuries climbed as well, to well over 40,000 a year. At the same time our rutted and potholed roads inflict a hidden tax of $637 a year per driver to fix damage to vehicles. Local and intercity transit is rudimentary in most places, and without the ability to plan and fund long term regional needs, Wisconsin will continue falling behind and losing Millennials who demand good transit. Ten years ago, Wisconsin was the second-most bike friendly state; today it is 26th.
In the state senate, I will work with Democrats and Republicans to fashion a long-term solution to our transportation and infrastructure woes and put Wisconsin on a sustainable path for years to come. We will make transportation and infrastructure a real priority, because I know that economic growth cannot happen without good roads, good schools, and good connectivity. Wisconsin should:
• Optimize our infrastructure spending, so we rely less on expensive bonding (“credit card” financing that should be reserved for capital projects) and prioritize projects based on need rather than politics.
• Aggressively court federal funds for Wisconsin projects, so we receive money from the federal government for state projects, including major highway projects, expansions, bridges, and high speed rail.
• Adopt best practices for transportation project development and selection to insure we put scarce resources to the highest and best use, and to restore balance and fairness in the enumeration and appropriation of new projects. In recent years, projects in just one part of the state — like new Foxconn roads — have skipped ahead of others. That is wrong. All communities in all parts of the state deserve equal consideration. We should allocate a fair and equitable distribution of funds for each DOT region, based on current and future need, safety, and related factors.
• Adopt a fix-it-first approach that to bring our existing transportation facilities up to a state of good repair before adding new ones.
• Consider a bipartisan solution for our transportation fund, including modest adjustment of the gas tax and re-indexing to inflation, so that our transportation budget has the revenue needed to pay as we pave.
• Restore the ability of local governments to form regional transportation/transit authorities to plan for and address their own long term needs.
• Fund local communities’ road aids, so they can fix their own local roads rather than digging up asphalt and returning to gravel.
• Reduce deaths and injuries, in part by restoring cuts and policy language for actions to protect people traveling by foot and by bike.
• Provide more low-polluting transportation options, through the actions above and by working with utilities and other entities on electrification, and by removing the archaic retailing ban on the leading brand of domestic electric cars.
• Pursue high-speed intercity rail that connects Chicago to the Twin Cities via Madison, Milwaukee, LaCrosse, and Eau Claire.
• Restore DOT funding for positions to reduce cost of road building and over-reliance on more costly contracting.
We also must modernize Wisconsin’s infrastructure, making critical investments in connectivity. Access to the internet and wireless receptivity are the necessary utilities for 21st century life. We need a new “rural electrification” act that connects every community in the state to high-speed internet. We will:
• Connect as many Wisconsinites to as much bandwidth as quickly as possible – relying on a mix of public/municipal, private, and non profit/educational internet service providers to cover our entire state quickly.
• Expand wireless receptivity to Wisconsin, so that people and businesses can connect to reliable, consistent service wherever they are.
• Pass state-level rules to protect net neutrality – no internet service provider should be allowed to force disfavored content into a “slow lane” or censor what people can access on the internet.
For more on developing Wisconsin’s clean energy infrastructure, please see our policy briefs under economy and environment.