Historical Lessons For Today’s Leaders, Wisconsin Birdathon 2016, Should Wisconsin Consider Toll Roads?

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History can be a powerful factor in U.S. policy, but our guest says historians and policymakers rarely work together. He makes the case for greater cooperation between academics and officials. We also get a preview of the Great Wisconsin Birdathon, and we talk to a guest making the case for toll roads in Wisconsin.

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  • With Poor Road Conditions, Advocate Says It's Time Wisconsin Install Toll Roads

    A new study by the Local Government Institute of Wisconsin showing that Wisconsin is home to the third-worst roads in the nation has some saying it’s time to install toll roads.

    “Everybody points to the important needs for infrastructure and improving roads, but nobody seems to be able to come up with the money. What tolling does is it puts into place a system in which people pay for the roads that they use,” said Patrick Jones, the CEO of the International Bridge, Tunnel, and Turnpike Association, an organization that represents toll facility operators.

    Jones said it’s time that public officials own up to the fact that there are no free roads.

    “You are either going to pay for your roads with taxes or you’re going to pay with tolls,” he said. “And if you don’t pay with either of those, than motorist will pay for the poor condition of the roads in terms of the higher maintenance costs for their vehicles.”

    He estimated that Wisconsin’s poor road conditions cost state drivers $700 in vehicle repairs annually, almost double the national average of $377.

    There are toll facilities in 35 states, including many of Wisconsin’s neighbors, that, according to Jones, generate upwards of $14 billion a year in revenue.

    Jones recognizes that it’s not easy convincing people to install toll roads. He said it’s going to require a new way of thinking about road maintenance.

    “I think we have to encourage people to think about the roads that they use in a way similar to the utilities that they use,” he said. “So, we need to think about our roads more as a public utility and less as something in nature that we found and has been here all along.”

    Jones said surveys show that people are not in favor of adding tollways to existing roadways. However, he said people are generally more receptive to tolls when they’re installed as new roadways are being built, an interchange is improved or lanes are widened. He said people want to see something tangible for how their money is being used.

    Today’s technology allows tolls to be collect digitally as cars pass on the road, as opposed to the more old-fashioned tollbooths. Given Wisconsin’s population density and crippling infrastructure, Jones said tolls would go a long way for drivers

  • Wisconsin Grapes, Apples Could Suffer From Late-Spring Freezing Temperatures

    A late-season cold snap that brought below-freezing temperatures to Wisconsin this weekend could negatively affect fruit crops.

    Wisconsin grows several different varieties of fruit, including grapes for table and wine, as well as apples and cherries.

    Amaya Atucha, an associate professor of horticulture at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said fruit crops in the southern and western parts of the state will likely be the hardest hit by the late frost, whereas crops up north may fare a little better since cooler temperatures have been more consistent this season. Atucha said it will likely take about three weeks to see the extent of the damage and it will vary by location. She said the orchards and vines that will fare the best are areas with good air drainage.

    “That means that the cold air moves through your orchard or vineyard without staying and affecting your vineyards or your orchards, then you probably got less damaged,” she said. “If you’re in a cold spot, that damage will be exacerbated.”

    Atucha said while it will take some time to fully assess the damage to this year’s crops, she is more optimistic when she looks ahead to the next year. She said while farmers see reduced fruit growth this year because of the frost, the cold wasn’t severe enough to damage trees and vines throughout the state.

    Moreover, if the frost damaged the buds of the trees, farmers could take the time to tend to the health of the plants themselves to prepare for next year. She also said, for some crops, farmers could actually see an abundance of fruit in the following year.

    “What’s going to happen — probably — with the apple trees is there are some growers that won’t have any this year, next year there’s going to be a very heavy bloom,” Atucha said. “There are going to be a lot of flowers, so probably we’re going to have a very successful crop next year.”

    She cautioned though that this could still be dependent on the weather next year, notably avoiding another late-spring frost.

  • The Great Wisconsin Birdathon 2016

    The Great Wisconsin Birdathon is a spring fundraising campaign for the Bird Protection Fund. The 2016 birdathon goes until June 15. We talk to the coordinator of the Great Wisconsin Birdathon to find out how it works and how you could help raise money to help birds in the state.

  • Lessons From The Past For Today's Leaders

    American leaders should look to history for guidance in dealing with today’s problems–and historians should try to share those lessons with policymakers. That’s according to a guest historian, who says we should pay more attention to the power of the past.

  • Should Wisconsin Consider Toll Roads?

    The U.S. Department of Transportation said drivers logged more miles in 2015 than in any year in American history–more than three trillion miles. Wisconsin is where 60 billion of those miles were traveled…but according to a study from the Local Government of Wisconsin Institute, the Badger State has the third-worst roads in the nation. We talk to someone making the case that Wisconsin should consider toll roads to help fund road maintenance.

Episode Credits

  • Rob Ferrett Host
  • Veronica Rueckert Host
  • Amanda Magnus Producer
  • J. Carlisle Larsen Producer
  • Rob Ferrett Producer
  • Patrick Jones Guest
  • Amaya Atucha Guest
  • Diane Packett Guest
  • Jeremi Suri Guest

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