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Keep Wisconsin Moving: Smart Investments, Measurable Results - January 2013

Keep Wisconsin Moving: Smart Investments, Measurable Results - January 2013

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A report issued by the Wisconsin Commission on Transportation Finance and Policy about the state of funding for roads and mass transit in the state, issued in January 2013.
A report issued by the Wisconsin Commission on Transportation Finance and Policy about the state of funding for roads and mass transit in the state, issued in January 2013.

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Published by: Isthmus Publishing Company on Feb 05, 2013
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critical to the free fow of traffc on our

highways and the safety of motorists

and workers in construction zones

and emergency situations. Through installation of guidance and warning signs,

ITS, pavement markings, lighting and other services, the program manages public

safety and performance of the state highway system. In the future, innovations

such as connected-vehicle technology may increase the need for ITS infrastructure

in Wisconsin.

The Commission asked:

➤Should the state consider alternative models of providing

maintenance services?

Wisconsin’s service delivery model relies on the ability of county governments

to maintain the capacity of the highway system and, in return, receive payment

for actual costs incurred. The department establishes an annual budget for each

county, which sets the preferred limit for county reimbursements. State statutes

Wisconsin Transportation Finance and Policy Commission, Section II 65 January 2013

require the department to pay actual costs for maintenance activities when the work

is done under contract with counties or municipalities. Costs include an allowance

for materials and the use of county or municipal machinery and overhead expenses

agreed upon in advance.

THE COMMISSION RECOMMENDS retaining the state highway
maintenance model with the counties performing work under
contract with the state.

WIS 19, Dane County

The Commission’s review of other state

highway maintenance programs found

no demonstrated private contracting

models in operation at the scale of the

statewide maintenance services

Wisconsin requires. They found no

beneft in shifting the road maintenance

function from the counties to the state.

THE COMMISSION RECOMMENDS that opportunities for regionalization
of some county maintenance functions be evaluated for effciency.

Under the broad umbrella of regionalization, the Commission is interested

in piloting certain activities:


Jurisdictional cooperation (establishing seamless county borders) to deliver

specifc maintenance services could improve effciency and save money.

By making route assignments between adjacent counties for winter snow-

plowing, cycle times could be standardized, minimizing travel times to replenish

salt, reducing the overall number of statewide plow routes and drivers needed,

and employing larger plows or plowing attachments more effectively.


Operational rearrangements could be made for specialized equipment or

skill sets. The department is already employing county pavement-marking

crews outside their home borders so that every county is not required to

obtain painting equipment and provide staff training to operate it. Other

routine maintenance activities could be coordinated. Finally, standard sets

of responsibilities could be developed for the counties.


Administrative program changes could be explored related to alternative

cost-reimbursement practices, introducing uniform productivity rates, unit

cost pricing, or other performance-based methods for containing and

monitoring cost increases.

THE COMMISSION RECOMMENDS that consideration be given
to improving the model to make it more performance-driven.

The details of this recommendation are provided under Policy recommendations

to improve performance and effciencies and reduce costs.

Wisconsin Transportation Finance and Policy Commission, Section II 66 January 2013

The Commission asked:

➤Does the department appropriately consider the cost of maintenance

in its budget?

The Commission found that life cycle costs for projects are not included in all cost

estimates. As noted in discussion of the State Highway Program, the Commission

recommends a required life cycle cost analysis for each project in the Majors program

to give the Transportation Projects Commission a more complete picture of total

project costs.

The Commission asked:

➤Is current funding for highway maintenance adequate to prudently

manage Wisconsin’s highway assets?

Ninety-five percent of residents
surveyed believe repairing and
maintaining existing highways
is important.

The department evaluates the condition of

the state highway system through several

means. Pavement conditions are surveyed

every two years; half the state is driven and

surveyed each year. Bridge conditions are

monitored through routine inspections.

Information on routine sign replacement is stored in the Sign Information Management

System (SIMS). SIMS data identifes replacement needs based on the age and useful

life of signs. The condition of most other state roadway assets is tracked through the

department’s quality assurance and asset management program (Compass).

Compass provides condition data on roadway shoulders, drainage elements, roadside

features and traffc control and safety devices. Compass data provides a graded

level-of-service condition “A” through “F” for highway segments and helps determine

funding priorities.

Weather variations make it diffcult to

estimate the number and duration of

snowplowing and deicing events that will

be needed to keep state highways safe

in the winter months. Unplanned, high-

cost roadway repairs, incident response,

congestion management, and the use of

technology to monitor and manage traffc

all contribute to maintenance costs in a

given year. The increasing demands on the

maintenance and traffc operations budget

have required maintenance program

supplements from the SHR program four

times in the last decade.

THE COMMISSION RECOMMENDS an increase to the Maintenance
and Traffc Operations budget of $33 million annually or $330 million
over 10 years.

“The formula…to estimate funding needs

in the maintenance program consistently

shows maintenance funding falls short of

established need…Increasing lane miles,

additional safety measures, and the need

to modify work hours to minimize traffc

disruptions all contribute to increased

maintenance costs.”

Wisconsin Counties Association

Wisconsin Transportation Finance and Policy Commission, Section II 67 January 2013

The Commission’s recommended investment level for

maintenance and traffc operations would extend current

maintenance service levels, allowing a Compass grade

of “C” to be realized.

Many services are currently rated at a “C” grade level

or worse. Areas with lower than desirable service levels

include pavement marking, shoulder drop-off repair, sign

repair and replacement, lighting and traffc control system

maintenance, guardrail repair, and vegetation control.

Adequate funding could facilitate a proactive maintenance

schedule and stretch the life of existing roadways, delaying

the need for major rehabilitation projects and potentially

reducing the costs of eventual reconstruction. Should

the Commission’s request for an additional $330 million

over 10 years not be implemented, traveler warning and

road weather management systems would be increasingly compromised. Routine

maintenance activities on signifcant portions of the system would be further curtailed.

Snow removal would continue, but at reduced service levels, resulting in an increasing

portion of the system being snow-covered and slippery for longer periods of time after

winter storms. The department would likely need to request supplemental funding

each year from the SHR program for basic maintenance activities.

Wisconsin Transportation Finance and Policy Commission, Section II 68 January 2013

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