Thursday, February 8, 2018

WI road tolls? Costly, and no quick fix

[Update - - Even Walker's DOT Secretary until last year thinks tolling is bad, wasteful idea.

Having overspent on excessive projects, borrowed to the hilt and refused to repair the roads and bridges we have, of course Walker and his road-builder obeisant legislative crew would talk up their new love: toll roads.

Walker is tying his trial balloon interest in tolls 
to matching tax reductions elsewhere - - thus keeping his calculated distance, because, hey, he's running for re-election and saying, basically, 'don't put that toll road stink on me - -  thus signaling support for further shrinking the public sector and boosting service privatization that will make his donors even happier.

But don't think for a minute that tolling is any kind of statewide transportation panacea.

For one thing, the state is dangling this theoretical collection of road tolls in front of federal officials who may be looking to OK projects that include big state  taxpayer contributions under Trump's fake federal infrastructure 'plan.'  

You can bet that any new federal money coming to Wisconsin for road purposes would underwrite some or all of what the state is borrowing to pay for Foxconn-related road construction at the already-heavily-subsidized Foxconn site.

How does that get your potholes filled, your local and arterial streets repaved, and the nearby bridge repaired to a reasonable safety standard?

And don't think that even a quick approval of tolling would do anything but allow the ruling GOP to pose as problem-solvers at election time after years of willful, self-serving procrastination.

A study the state commissioned on tolling found that there are huge up front costs and delays built into joining Illinois and other toll collecting states: 
Any plan for toll roads would take at least four years to implement, the study found. It estimates upfront capital costs for tolling Wisconsin’s interstates would range between $350 million and $400 million.
And for every highway segment tolled, expect nearby local roads to absorb increased traffic avoiding the pay-as-you-drive electronic charges, thus congesting and wearing out those routes even faster. 

Who will pay for those resulting repairs? 

And does anyone think the local-control haters running state government these days would fairly bring cities, villages, towns and counties into the tolling revenue streams, or consider tolling's distorted impacts on low-income motorists?

Also - - don't forget that road-tolling can lead to calls for privatization. Look no farther than the debacle in Indiana.

And the huge boosts in Skyway tolls and parking fees in Chicago.

The budget-breaking/never-ending cycle of ignore-build-ignore-repair-expand-repair-ignore some more will not end until the state frees itself from the clutches of self-interested road-building combines and gets serious about investments in a fix-it-first philosophy no different than putting a new roof on your house before adding an addition..

And commits to congestion's best friend - - modern, accessible transit - - which provides options for a rapidly-aging, driving-avoiding population.

All of which requires a completely different type of governance that is dedicated to public, not special interest service.

We'll only get get more of what we have, but at higher social and fiscal costs along with a wider, deeper donor trough, if we leave the mess to Walker, Robin Vos, Scott Fitzgerald whose permanent, one-dimensional political careers have been funded by road-builders and related special interests. 

Editor's note: A headline error on this post has been corrected, and also in a reposting.


Anonymous said...

Paying tolls is an inefficient way to deal with paying for our highways. Toll roads lead to added construction costs and many costs are involved in collecting the tolls.
One advantage I can see is that the folks that use the toll roads have to pay for them.
But wait a minute, doesn't gas tax do the same thing and doesn't the gas tax pay for all roads. It costs nothing to increase the gas tax.

Wisconsin Taxpayer said...

Scott Walker is a thug. Doesn't care about the People of Wisconsin and certainly doesn't care about our infrastructure or our environment.