With Wisconsin facing at least a $1 billion a year shortfall in transportation funding, a new report suggests toll roads might be the answer to improving and modernizing its highway system. The study released by the Policy Research Institute suggests the state implement toll systems that could raise over $5.2 billion.
Institute President George Lightbourn admits the idea could be a tough sell for many motorists. However, he says what they are suggesting is far different than the ideas many people have about cars backed up in crowded plazas while someone searches for coins. Lightbourn says modern technologies would allow for an open road tolling system where drivers never have to slow down and can pay later.
Open road tolling used in several other states, such as Illinois. Motorists have pre-paid transponders in their vehicle that deduct the amount as they pass through a toll. However, Illinois still has toll booths in place at most toll plazas where cash is accepted.
Lightbourn says a modern system could also use cameras to catch photos of license plates, allowing motorists to be billed if they do not have a transponder in the vehicle.
It’s not clear how the idea would be received in the Legislature, where tolls have always had little support when the topic comes up. Governor Scott Walker has also expressed opposition to tolls in the past. Although, he did indicate some support on the campaign trail for allowing pay-only express lanes in parts of the state with heavier traffic.
The report says the state should conduct a more in-depth study of the issue as it develops future transportation plans.