This Weather Hasn’t Helped Rural Roads

Regardless of where you live in Wisconsin, road quality has been an issue. Now, the state is focusing on rural roads specifically for some needed attention. Catch is, impacted farmers, agribusinesses and towns need to unite in requesting funding.

The Agricultural Road Improvement Program (ARIP) is underway. Jerry Derr has been involved in these conversations about Wisconsin roads for about 40 years. As he explains, he’s wearing two hats. One as a long time member of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation. The other hat is as president of the Wisconsin Towns Association.

Derr knows how difficult it is to keep roads in good shape in America’s Dairyland. Weather, with the freezing and thawing effect, challenges even the best engineering plans. Derr’s spending time trying to help impacted farmers, rural agribusinesses and their town representatives get on the same page in telling the story of their road. Literally that story will count toward projects getting dollars! Each request will go through evaluation by a panel of evaluators – and Derr expects to be one of those chosen. He said he’s been involved in projects like this before, and it’s all about finding priorities.

The ARIP program only has $50 million available in grant funding for the first round. Applications for that money will be accepted until April 5th. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation said they will continue accepting ARIP grants later this summer for the remaining $100 million in state aid.

The program is designed to enhance local roads, eliminate posted routes and benefit all rural drivers. It creates a mechanism to repair or replace structures under 20 feet in length which were not eligible for federal revenue for local bridges.

To be eligible for an ARIP grant under the program, a route or structure must have been posted for weight for at least one month in the previous year, be maintained by a local government and provide access to agricultural lands or facilities. Local governments can expect to have 90 percent of the cost for these projects funded by state grant dollars.

ARIP priority will be given to projects that provide the greatest benefit to agricultural producers using the following criteria:

  • It provides the greatest positive economic impact.
  • It provides access to the largest number of farmers or volume of agricultural goods.
  • It improves the only practicable access to a farm field or facility.
  • It will result in the reduction of cost for farmers due to repeated trips at reduced weight, labor, fuel or mileage/wear on agricultural equipment.

Application materials can be found on DOT’s website.

A map of potentially eligible roads can be found here.

Joel Nilsesteun, Assistant Deputy Secretary at the Wisconsin Department of Transportation during the Wisconsin Ag Coalition press event.