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Wisconsin Addresses Aging Agricultural Roads with Proposed Legislation
Wisconsin Ag Connection - 05/26/2023

Wisconsin's aging rural roads and bridges, burdened with weight limits, have become a significant challenge for the state's agricultural sector. To avoid hauling milk, feed, and equipment over deteriorating pavement and unsafe structures, farmers and haulers are forced to take lengthy detours or transport partial loads, resulting in increased costs and safety risks.

Recognizing the urgency of the issue, legislation aimed at rebuilding these crucial rural routes and revitalizing the agricultural infrastructure has received a public hearing.

Designated as the top legislative priority for the state's farm lobby, the proposed bills advocate for the establishment of a grant program tailored to address the challenges faced by rural routes. Introduced with bipartisan support, the legislation highlights the disparity between Wisconsin's aging infrastructure, constructed primarily in the 1950s and 60s, and the growing agricultural industry that relies on robust transportation networks to sustain its operations.

The bills propose that municipalities be eligible for grants covering up to 100% of the project costs, focusing on local roads, minor collectors, bridges, and culverts used by multiple agricultural producers. Additionally, an amendment includes roads utilized for hauling forestry products. By targeting smaller projects and simplifying the application process, the legislation aims to assist local governments that lack the resources for extensive road improvements.

While the specific impact of the proposed grant program is yet to be determined, lawmakers and interest groups view it as a vital step toward addressing the state's infrastructure needs. The legislation, combined with an anticipated one-time appropriation of $150 million, demonstrates Wisconsin's commitment to supporting its agricultural industry and ensuring the efficient movement of goods. By revitalizing aging agricultural roads, the state aims to foster a more resilient and prosperous agricultural sector for years to come.

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