Local officials talk transportation, infrastructure effects on community

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU)-- Lack of local infrastructure funding was the main talking point, Thursday at the Chippewa Valley Regional Airport, as elected officials and business leaders met to discuss the economic impact transportation updates can make throughout the Chippewa Valley.

Craig Thompson, Executive Director with the Transportation Development Association of Wisconsin has been traveling around the state, holding roundtable discussions to find out how much businesses are affected by poor road conditions.

“It's all meant to have that discussion about what the local roads and the transportation system in general mean to the economy and these businesses bottom lines. There's farmers that can't get over the bridge because it's being posted and have to go out of their way, same with the timber industry, they can't go down certain roads or bridges because they're not in the condition they need to be, and it really affects their bottom line,” says Thompson.

“The logging industry, the dairy industry, all that equipment keeps getting bigger and bigger and it just has more of an impact on our roads. I don't think the general public realizes the degrading condition of the roads,” says Brian Kelley, Interim Highway Director for Chippewa County.

Industry leaders say highway access is a top consideration in site selection when businesses decide to come to the area.

“When a business is looking at an area, they're looking at the infrastructure of the highways and also for their employees to get to the facilities,” says Eau Claire County Highway Commissioner, Jon Johnson.

That’s why local officials are looking to state legislators for help.

“Moving forward, we are bonding for currently for $6 million annually which is important. If we didn't do that we would fall behind even more. We have been making good strides in the last two years, but now, over 40% of our roads are in poor to very poor condition. In Eau Claire County, 80% of them are local roads, but there are still other roads that are important as well,” says Johnson.

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