That bumpty-bump-bumpty-bump along the 13-mile stretch of Highway 14 between Janesville and Evansville isn’t the state Department of Transportation’s fault.
Here’s what the DOT says happened: An independent consultant—meaning not the DOT’s staff—screwed up platting the rights-of-way, delaying the project for years.
Not the DOT’s fault.
But we hope the DOT will forgive drivers who took little comfort in the explanation the DOT provided for Sunday’s story by Gazette reporter Neil Johnson. Whether an independent consultant, DOT staff member or someone else is to blame doesn’t change the fact that this project is long overdue. The road hasn’t been resurfaced in almost 20 years and has been slated for resurfacing and reconfiguration since 2013.
Now, the DOT says construction likely won’t begin until 2021.
In the meantime, the road’s condition continues to deteriorate, with some drivers noticing the potholes beginning to merge. Traveling the road is like “making the trench run on the Death Star,” one person commented on Facebook, evoking a scene from a “Star Wars” movie.
We’d like to see the DOT expedite this project and start it soon. No more excuses.
Yet we wonder whether there’s more to this story than the DOT is letting on. Money has been allocated for the project, but each year of delay adds to the price tag, and former Gov. Scott Walker refused to raise the gas tax or take other measures to increase revenues to pay for much-needed projects. The DOT isn’t saying so, but it’s fair to ask whether the Highway 14 project fell victim to Walker’s stingy ways.
After all, this 13-mile stretch of highway isn’t Rock County’s only crumbling piece of pavement. It’s not the only “trench run” drivers are having to endure.
Bureaucratic bumbling is likely part of the problem, but there’s no denying our transportation infrastructure is starving for more funding. While the 13-mile section of Highway 14 slated for resurfacing has a rating of only 26 on the DOT’s 100-point Pavement Condition Index, other parts of Highway 14 aren’t much better off, earning a rating of only 40.
We wish Highway 14 were the exception, but it’s the rule, unfortunately.
To his credit, Gov. Tony Evers has proposed injecting millions of more dollars into road projects at both the state and local levels. We believe the case for Evers’ proposal is strong, but skeptical legislators shouldn’t take our word for it.
Before voting, they should travel Highway 14 between Janesville and Madison and then decide if the roadways are adequate.