Toll roads = billions

Toll roads?

In Wisconsin?

The Wisconsin State Journal reports:

Tolling Wisconsin’s U.S. interstates could raise billions for the state’s most-traveled thoroughfares…a new state Department of Transportation study finds.

Assembly Republican leaders say toll roads, which currently don’t exist in Wisconsin, should be considered. The DOT study does not recommend for or against tolling, but gives a broad overview of its pros, cons, and of how it would be implemented.

Any plan for toll roads would take at least four years to implement, the study found.

The study assumes highway tolls would be collected electronically — via transponders in vehicles or by photographing vehicle license plates and mailing toll bills to vehicle owners. Such a system eliminates the need for motorists to stop to pay a toll, and for toll plazas that restrict highway access.

Count me as a resounding NO!

I blogged about this touchy item nearly 10 years ago:

When you think of the most unpopular policy ideas in Wisconsin, what comes to mind?

A tax on beer would have to be near the top.

Within recent memory, the automatic yearly increase in the state gasoline tax became so unpopular it was eliminated.

How about the notion of toll roads?

The mere mention of such a proposal instantly brings visceral reactions.

Not so elsewhere around the country.

“American City and County” Magazine reports:

According to the Federal Highway Administration (FHA), 21 states allow the use of PPPs to fund transportation projects. Also, since the passage of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) in 1991, 27 states and one territory have implemented major toll road operations, according to the August 2006 FHA study “Current Toll Road Activity in the U.S.: A Survey and Analysis.”

States are using PPPs and tolls to raise revenue and handle the increasing cost of building and maintaining new infrastructure, says Jack Basso, chief operating officer for the Washington-based American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. “Especially if it’s ‘green field’ projects, meaning new construction, it’s a way of generating the necessary revenue to get those facilities built a lot faster than you can do them in the traditional way, where you have to build up a lot of capital over a lot of years and you’re being chased [by inflation] the whole time you’re building that capital,” he says. The “Current Toll Road Activity in the U.S.” study shows that 168 toll projects planned or implemented since ISTEA could provide up to 14,565 lane miles of capacity to the nation’s highway system. Also, the study projects that toll road development will increase from 50 to 75 miles per year between 1991 and 2001 to 150 miles per year for the next 10 years. Finally, the study’s authors reach the conclusion that “we may be on the verge of transitioning to a robust mix of highway funding options in which tolls play a significant role.”

The rap on toll roads is the heavy volume of trucking traffic they would send to other roads not equipped to handle the load.

Tony Giancola, executive director of the Washington-based National Association of County Engineers (NACE) says, “One of the unintended consequences is the fact that there may be parallel local roads or other state roads which are not interstate or big freeway-type roads, which could, in fact, witness … an influx of truck traffic to avoid the tolls. These roads could be overwhelmed, not only with congestion but also because they are designed to a different level [and] may not be able to handle the repeated truck traffic that’s going over them.” That already happens in some states with toll roads, Giancola says, and drivers of smaller vehicles may do the same, adding to congestion.

I hate the idea of toll roads and I think most people do. Most, but not everyone.

In summary there are three very, very simple reasons why tolls are an incredibly bad idea:

1)       HELLO!!!! If we institute tolls, Wisconsin motorists will also have to pay them.

2)       We already pay our fair share in taxes, not to mention one of the highest gas taxes in the nation to support our roads. We don’t need extra fees to pay, and what is probably the most important reason tolls are an incredibly bad, even stupid idea…

3)       JUST ABOUT EVERYBODY IN WISCONSIN HATES IT!!

—October 2007

 

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