Life is a highway… and so much more

My 3-year-old son loves Lightning McQueen.

He’s red. He’s fast. He comes on cool t-shirts. He’s never even watched much of the film, “Cars,” but he knows one of songs featured at its beginning.

“Life is a Highway” was originally written by Canadian Tom Cochrane in the early 1990′s as an ode to living life and enjoying every moment. They are qualities my little guy embodies.

For years, the title of the song though might have doubled as the mantra for transportation funding throughout Wisconsin. Dalliances with transit and multi-modal models were just that, dalliances, with the lion’s share of transportation money coming from and going to, highways. A 176-page report out this week from the 10-member citizen Transportation Commission shows our entire transportation system now needs even more help, specifically our roads.

My colleague Zac Schultz spoke with Transportation Secretary Mark Gottlieb about the report last week on Here and Now, but in case you missed it, the commission’s recommendations include, among other things, raising the gas tax by five cents a gallon, increasing the fee to get a driver’s license and eliminating the sales tax exemption you get if you trade in a car.

Overall, the commission is asking for an additional annual investment of $480 million over the next decade just to keep up with the increased use of the system. Keeping the status quo, a press release states “will result in serious worsening in the condition and safety of state highways, increased urban highway congestion and reduced service levels for public transit.”

It’ll be an interesting conversation at the Capitol over this as Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wisconsin) and many Republicans have indicated they want to cut taxes this¬† legislative session and not increase them. Without increased revenue coming from somewhere, it could lead to a scenario where lots of Lightning McQueens may be needed in the future to re-pave Wisconsin’s roads.

INTERESTING NOTES FROM WASHINGTON

In case you missed it this week, President Obama was sworn in to a second term in the White House. The New York Times has a fascinating interactive graphic to show who sat where during the inauguration. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin), Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin) and Rep.  Paul Ryan (R-Janesville) were among the Wisconsinites there.

And speaking of Sen. Johnson, he had a fascinating back and forth with outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton over the deaths of four Americans during the attack on a diplomatic post in Benghazi. You can watch the video of that interaction here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/wp/2013/01/23/four-memorable-moments-from-hillary-clintons-benghazi-testimony-video/

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