Barrett asks state to help pay for city road repairs

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by Lane Kimble

MILWAUKEE -- Drivers all across the city shake, rattle and roll over potholes every day, hoping for repairs.  But the City of Milwaukee says there isn't enough money to fix its damaged roads

"Put the dollars into the local roads where they can do the most good," Mayor Tom Barrett said.

Barrett called on state lawmakers Tuesday to spend surplus transportation money on city streets.
 

"It doesn't do us any good to spend hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars, billions of dollars on highway projects if people can't get to the highways without going through pothole after pothole after pothole," Barrett said.

An unexpected surplus in the state budget had the Assembly considering a bill that would dedicate $43 million to road improvements.  But the state wants to spend that on eleven highway projects, not city streets.
 

"There will never be enough money in the world to replace all the streets in our community," Cudahy Mayor John Hohenfeldt said.  "However, getting some of this money, spent wisely at the local level will allow us to repair our aging infrastructure."

This winter hasn't helped.  Mayor Barrett says since January 1st, Milwaukee has received nearly 1,000 pothole repair requests.

"Every time we spend money on fixing a pothole, that's money that's taken away from actually doing a permanent repair," Milwaukee DPW Commissioner Ghassan Korban said.

Governor Scott Walker doesn't think cities should get the extra money.  Speaking in Milwaukee Tuesday, Walker said the state has done its part.
 

"They're already getting, in the budget we're currently in, a four percent increase," Walker said.  "We think that's a tremendous help for local governments."

Milwaukee-area leaders feel that mindset ignores some of the state's most traveled roads.  Barrett says less than a quarter of DOT road and bridge funding will go to local roads, down from 40 percent 20 years ago.

"We're trying to do the best we can, but we know what we have, in terms of funding, is just not enough," Korban said.

Barrett says if the city can't get additional funding, it will have to continue its "band-aid" approach of simply filling in potholes until spring.

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