La Crosse County road conditions elicit varying responses

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Mdcastle via Wikimedia

The La Crosse West Channel Bridge looking east.

Wisconsin Public Radio broadcasted a debate Oct. 13 between incumbent Democratic Rep. Steve Doyle and Republican Julian Bradley, the candidates competing for the 94th Assembly District. During the debate, Doyle claimed that La Crosse County needed more state support to improve local road conditions.

“We’ve done studies at the La Crosse County level and we’ve identified $61 million dollars of need that we have, roads that need serious repair and maintenance right now, $61 million, but we’re only able to spend $2.4 million dollars.”  

The Observatory confirmed both the $61 million in county needs and the $2.4 million available to spend. However, the $2.4 million is borrowed funds, which can only be spent on large projects. We concluded that the county has more money available to spend past $2.4 million since the $61 million applies to all types of highway maintenance, not just large-scale projects and rated the claim as Mostly False as it left out that context.

Julie Welch, a fifth-grade teacher at North Woods International School in La Crosse, said she feels that the roads she uses are pretty stable and that she doesn’t “think (the county’s) let them run down or anything.”

However, La Crosse County Highway Commissioner Ron Chamberlain expects county needs to rise in 2017 because of general deterioration.

“Quite frankly, 2017 is the next rating year and I anticipate that the estimated cost of our needs will grow because of recent roadway deterioration due to increased weights (of vehicles), traffic, and severe spring break up,” said Chamberlain in an email interview.

Chamberlain also guessed that a majority of other local units of government across the state would find their comprehensive needs proportionally similar.

Welch said that if the county were to have more money to spend on transportation, they should focus on maintaining the roads they have.

“Progress is good but then to build roads just to have more roads isn’t needed.”

Email interview with Ron Chamberlain, Oct. 19, 2016
Phone interview with Julie Welch, Oct. 23, 2016

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