Saturday, December 1, 2007

McIlheran Endorses I-94 Tolls - - And Notice They Aren't Called Taxes

When conservatives accuse government of taking money out of our pockets, every fee is called a tax, with fees and taxes being pretty much a bad thing, especially if the fees and taxes are being expanded or are altogether new.

But Patrick McIlheran can endorse putting first-ever Wisconsin tolls on an express lane from Milwaukee to Chicago, and that's not a tax increase.
In fact, it's downright virtuous, he tells us.

Set aside the fact that you can't take federal gas tax money and use it to build a toll road.

Tolls roads in Wisconsin have no political support here because they are too much an Illinois way of doing things.

And because people correctly know that tolls only go up, enriching the builders or lessors - - which more and more - - from Texas to Indiana to the Chicago Skyway - - are foreign-owned.

What's surprising to me in the debate about transportation spending in Wisconsin is how little support there is from conservatives who usually want choices in all things - - goods through free trade, charter and choice schools, open shops without unions, and so forth.

Except when it comes to transportation.

Then it's roads, and more roads and now even toll roads.

So even a conservative like McIheran can dismiss the Milwaukee-Illinois I-94 project costs - - "I'm not complaining about the price, much," he tells us. "It's a huge sum, though at $54 million a mile, it's a bit below what observers say is the going rate," while noting that the federal government, as if it spends free money, is picking up most of the cost of the $810 million Marquette Interchange.

But still - - no trains.

Same for the conservative Deb Jordahl. No trains!

It's an odd thing, this fear of rail on the right - - light rail, commuter rail - - and it's so strong that conservative thinkers are willing to line up with the agendas of the road-builders, a lobby that continues to commandeer a giant share of one-dimensional, government spending that keeps going up and up and up.

For expensive major highways that need maintenance, cleaning, plowing, patrolling and always, inflation-accelerated replacement.

This is the policy in Wisconsin, not suprisingly, a high-tax-and-spending state, but a rail poor one.

Even progressive Indiana is way ahead of us.

Interesting that McInheran has touted building more lanes to Chicago, and opposed adding commuter rail, twice in three days.

Maybe he and others sense that the I-94 project, without the complementary commuter rail line, is losing its appeal.

Maybe $54 million a mile is nothing to sneeze at after all.

And installing commuter rail as a real choice makes sense across political and ideological lines.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Perhaps as a promotion, columnist McIlheran can hand out free "Eat My Upper Middle Class Dust, Sucker!" bumper stickers that are legible from the lower class "slow" lanes he proposes.