Wisconsin’s Governor signs $150 million ag roads bill
Legislation providing 150 million dollars in one-time state funding from the budget surplus to improve agriculturally important local roads that are often posted with weight limits has been signed into law. Governor Tony Evers tells Brownfield, “We had a nice group of Republicans and Democrats bipartisanship making this happen, and basically it’s going to be a long-term effort but making sure that our roads and agricultural parts in the State of Wisconsin, which is all of Wisconsin obviously, are safe.” The Governor says now the challenge is to get the Legislature to approve more people at the Department of Transportation to implement this program. “We’re going to make it happen, hopefully at some point in time the Legislature will understand that we actually have to have human beings doing that work.”
Representative Travis Tranel tells Brownfield his bill to get more state money to local towns for road repairs and improvements was not easy. “It took five years, if that gives you any kind of indication. 150 million dollars to rural Wisconsin is a lot of money, so it was more work than it should have been but being here today, it was definitely worth it.” Tranel says the bill had bipartisan support but, “The argument I made to our caucus is look, we’re investing billions of dollars into infrastructure all around the state. We’re billions of dollars behind in rural Wisconsin. We have to start somewhere.”
And the way the law is written, Tranel says it helps towns get road funding with a simple application targeting weight-restricted roads. “If you live in a rural area, that’s fantastic because that means a lot of the roads that are in cities and larger municipalities aren’t going to qualify, and from there, the projects that get selected will be based on what road has the most agricultural and economic activity.”
The funds will be administered by the State’s Department of Transportation, and Tranel says towns should start seeing dollars later this year.
Wisconsin’s ag coalition of more than 20 farm organizations calls this the most important and significant legislation for farmers in many years. Kevin Krentz is Wisconsin Farm Bureau’s President, and he tells Brownfield, “This is a good day for agriculture, and this is a good day for towns and local municipalities that have these roads that continue to deteriorate.” A.V. Roth from Wisconsin’s Pork Board tells Brownfield town roads in his neighborhood have been deteriorating for more than thirty years. “Just to put some of those back in repair and be able to do quite a bit to that, being able to get our equipment in there without rocking it apart will be good.”
Chad Zuleger with the Dairy Business Association tells Brownfield that they now look forward to working with the Wisconsin Towns Association to help get the money where it needs to be, including helping local town officials learn how to apply for funding.
Wisconsin Act 13 now funds the program, and local municipalities can apply for the dollars with a simple application, which will be scored by the Department of Transportation.
Watch for additional stories about the Agricultural Roads Improvement Act on Brownfield Ag News.