Toll roads in WI could be beneficial

Story by The Spectator Staff

The presence of toll roads in Wisconsin could provide benefits to the state’s highway system and transportation if they are implemented.

Tom Carlsen, who used to be Wisconsin’s state transportation secretary, said last week that toll roads are inevitable in Wisconsin because the state needs more money to pay for roads, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.

With cars becoming more fuel-efficient, he claimed the gas tax alone would not be enough to fund road improvements. The gas tax currently funds about 60 percent of WisDOT’s annual spending.

Toll roads are not totally inevitable, given the possibility of high-speed rail lines connecting Madison with other parts of the state and continuing to Minneapolis.

Toll roads in Wisconsin would make it virtually impossible to travel from places like Green Bay to Minneapolis without paying, and trains could alleviate that issue.

Toll roads are, however, better than an increased gas tax. Paying for traveling long distances is selective, while a gas tax affects all drivers.

With tolls, revenue could be generated based on driver behavior, not just anyone who drives.

Wisconsin is quickly gaining more traffic on roads like Hwy. 94, with many commuters coming from both Illinois and Minnesota.

The public might react negatively to toll roads in Wisconsin because the idea rubs people the wrong way.

But compared to the alternatives, it could end up benefitting the state. Toll roads along the Illinois-Wisconsin border can even offer assistance to drivers who experience car problems on the road.

If tolls do, in fact, start showing up in Wisconsin, it’s essential that the revenue go to improving the highways.

This claim was made in the Journal Sentinel report, but if the state expects people to pay tolls, the Department of Transportation also needs to hold up its end of the bargain.

Still, other transportation options, such as high-speed trains, should be considered in addition to tolls in Wisconsin. A combination of the two might be the best option for the state.