Wausau $25 million behind on road reconstruction projects

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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) -- As the state transportation budget continues to be debated, municipalities are focusing on what local funding will be available from that budget.

Last week Senate republicans announced plans to use surplus funds to include $133 million in the budget to help fix roads in counties and towns. Tuesday, Gov. Tony Evers said he is not sold yet on the plan.

"It's premature at this time to say that, I'm supportive or against the transportation fund, but it is clear that there's some, there's some cloudiness about the actual funding source," Gov. Evers said.

Eric Lindman, director of Wausau Public Works has been paying attention to which items are coming and going from the state's budget. He said there's a funding disparity between rural and urban roads.

"One of the items that was really, a little bit disheartening was they allocated $130 million. In that initial, none of it went to cities and villages, it all went to towns and counties. They came in with another $90 million and out of that $90 million, $67 million was going to towns and counties. You know, so the cities are only getting about $23 million of that $90 million," Lindman explained. "So, when you look at the full $200 million that they're allocating, cities are only getting $23 million."

While Wausau has some rural roads, most are typical city roads with curbs, gutters, storm water drains, and sidewalks, along with the infrastructure underneath. Lindman said the cost to replace a city road is nearly five times the cost to replace a rural road, about $900,000 compared to $200,000.

Wausau has been using tax incremental district money to help fund some roads, but many of the big TIDs will soon close. The city's general funding for infrastructure is about $2.7 million annually and about $2 million of that goes towards reconstructing roads.

"That gets us one road, one local road, decent-sized local road, maybe two smaller ones," said Lindman.

"We have a backlog of about $25-$30 million in our local streets that need to be reconstructed," he added.

He explained funding from the state has been low and stagnant for several years.

WPW is working to put up the latest 2017 road conditions map, but the 2015 map shows numerous roads that need reconstruction. Lindman said any road rated below a five would be looked at to be redone.

"If we just feel it's beyond any sort of maintenance then... we'll do what we can for it until the city comes up with money for full reconstruction," he said.

A wheel tax was voted down in Wausau, but Marathon County's was approved. Though Lindman says about 30% of the wheel tax is paid for by Wausau drivers, the money goes to fund county roads, not cities and villages. He said the mayor has asked to have a share of those fund be allocated to Wausau roads, but he was told no.

Road conditions need to be inspected and updated every two years, so engineering technicians will be out this summer looking at the cracks, potholes, and patterns in the pavement to determine what maintenance or reconstruction is needed.