Traffic on Wisconsin highways has tumbled in recent weeks due to businesses and schools closing as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. We assume our neighboring state of Michigan is experiencing the same fall in traffic counts. People simply aren’t moving these days even with gas prices the lowest in decades.

Based on a study conducted by the Wisconsin Policy Forum, a nonprofit, non-partisan organization, traffic has declined by 40% from 2.5 million vehicles on March 3 to 5 million vehicles on April 7. The study examined 61 locations where the Department of Transportation already collects data, according to the Appleton Post-Crescent.

The traffic declines aren’t limited to the southeastern part of Wisconsin, which has been hit the hardest by the pandemic. When separated by region, all areas of the state have seen traffic numbers fall by at least 36%.

The study suggested that from a public health perspective the traffic declines may be a positive indicator that residents in all parts of Wisconsin are staying home when possible to help prevent spread of the virus, according to the newspaper. The study included only highways, which means traffic on local streets isn’t clear.

Officers with the Wisconsin State Patrol have noticed a trend toward fewer accidents, but some officers have stopped some vehicles driving at a high rate of speed because of a lack of traffic. The sharp drop in driving could mean a significant decrease in state gas collections. The loss of gas taxes could result in long-standing funding challenges for highways and other important transportation infrastructure, the study showed.

There are no immediate answers as to when the trend will end. Higher levels of traffic can be expected once current restrictions are lifted, but that point is not certain. High unemployment, continued health concerns and the move to more people working out of their homes could make an impact on traffic numbers.

It is far too early to make a calculated forecast on all elements of the COVID-19 catastrophe. Wisconsin’s highway construction policy and budget planning will likely see drastic changes that will require long-term patience when it comes to our infrastructure, which has been in need of attention long before the coronavirus blindsided the world. We suspect Michigan’s infrastructure needs will experience the same problems. If the revenues aren’t in place, the work can’t get done.