February 11, 2016

Walker downplays tolls or gas tax hike

Governor Scott Walker says he would rather not delay major road construction projects in the state, if funding can be found.

The state budget request from the Department of Transportation calls for delaying several projects, including work on Milwaukee’s Zoo Interchange and widening parts of Interstate-39. Governor Walker says he would prefer to keep those moving ahead as planned because of their importance to Wisconsin’s infrastructure and economic development.

In the agency’s budget request, the DOT secretary says delays may be needed unless more funding is directed at road projects. The move would would likely add millions of dollars to the long term costs of several of those projects, but agency officials argue the revenue is currently not available to move ahead with them soon.

Transportation officials and lawmakers have floated the idea of either a gas tax increase or creating toll roads in Wisconsin to help boost funding. Governor Walker on Monday tried to downplay those options.

Walker said he “doesn’t think there’s a big appetite for a gas tax increase” and also reiterated his opposition to the idea of toll roads in Wisconsin. The governor noted that the required federal approval would also limit any quick financial benefits from tolls. He says the idea of something like “hot lanes,” in which people pay to use a faster express lane along a freeway, might be a more viable alternative.

Walker says the funding question will be considered as he prepares his budget proposal, which will be released in February.

AUDIO: Andrew Beckett reports (1:05)

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