Toll Roads for Wisconsin!
Traditionally, in Wisconsin toll roads are opposed by the right, because freeways are free, from the left because tolls are an attack on the middle class, and often by new urbanists, because freeways promote sprawl.
This urbanist feels it is time for us to stop referring to our Interstates as “freeways” as they have never been, and never will be free, and begin collecting tolls on them. Now the new funds shouldn’t be used to build bigger and bigger roads, but to allow for users of the Interstate system to pay more of the direct and indirect costs associated with highways.
Tolling roads in Wisconsin might be possible today, because of two key changes to the landscape. First, the technology of open road tolling has enabled states across the US to reduce the congestion and environmental issues associated with toll roads by minimizing the need to stop, while allowing users to pay more of the full cost of the highway system. Secondly, the political opposition to toll roads in Wisconsin has weakened. During the 2010 gubernatorial campaign Governor Scott Walker, who had previously opposed all toll roads, expressed an openness to the creation of HOT lanes, which are essentially toll lanes. Additionally, it was the right-wing leaning organization, the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute (WPRI), that recently put out a report supporting new toll roads in Wisconsin.
It isn’t likely that the Walker administration and WPRI are concerned with the indirect costs or externalities brought upon by highways. In fact it is far more likely they are interested in finding new funds for highway expansion, which is certainly a concern, but one that could be addressed in the long run. But regardless of everyone’s motives, properly implemented tolling with the goal of paying for some, if not all, of these costs could be a positive for Milwaukee and Southeast Wisconsin.