Feds may allow states to toll, state leaders open to idea

Feds may allow states to toll, state leaders open to idea

Congress may clear the way for states like Wisconsin to look at adding toll roads.

Rep. Reid Ribble, R-8th Congressional District, told News 3 in a taping of “For the Record” set to air Sunday that the federal highway bill moving through the House of Representatives may allow new states to toll.

“I think ultimately states will have the authority to toll on their own roads,” Ribble said. “The federal government is not going to have the ability to mandate tolls, but they’ll likely be given the authority to toll the interstate system if they choose.”

The bill would allow states that want to toll to apply to the federal government to do so a year from now.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Burlington, has been lobbying congressional members to give the state the authority to toll.

“I think it’s a really viable option because one of the things we have always said, ‘If you use a service you should pay for it,’ and that’s exactly what toll roads would be,” Vos said.

A Marquette Law School Poll found in May 2014 that 55 percent of Wisconsinites polled were willing to use tolls to pay for highway projects, while 42 percent said they’d be unwilling to do so.

The 2015-17 state budget requires that the Wisconsin Department of Transportation study the issue and find out how much money could be raised and where the toll roads would go. Lawmakers say an obvious choice would be to add tolls to I39/90 between the state line and Madison.

“I would want to hear from people and see what they think of that option,” Rep. Mark Spreitzer, D-Beloit, said. “We obviously have a lot of people coming up from Illinois, especially on the weekends in the summer, and tolling would be one way of capturing that money and putting it toward our roads.”

Gov. Scott Walker, at a news conference calling on lawmakers to approve borrowing allowed under the state budget for the I-39 expansion, said he’d consider the idea as a long-term way to fund roads.

“We’ve gotta have an equitable way to have that going forward and not just have it be dependent on the gas tax,” Walker said. “So that may be one of a number of options. I’m not going to make a commitment on any of those until we know what Congress may or may not approve.”

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee was considering the bill Thursday and the full House is expected to approve the bill by next week. The current transportation measure will run out on Oct. 29.