Walker downplays possibility of gas tax hike, toll roads
Gov. wants to keep major projects on schedule
MADISON, Wis. — Gov. Scott Walker is downplaying the possibility of a gas tax increase or the use of toll roads to pay for transportation projects in Wisconsin.
Walker on Monday was asked about the state Department of Transportation’s budget request that calls for delaying work on an expansion of Interstate 90 from Madison to the Illinois state line, Milwaukee’s Zoo Interchange and numerous other projects around the state.
Walker said a better way needs to be found to pay for transportation projects other than toll roads, which he said he is “not excited or thrilled” with. Walker also reiterated his opposition to a gas tax increase.
Walker said he is inclined to keep the Interstate 39 and Zoo Interchange projects on schedule without delaying other projects.
Walker said putting tolls on I-90 is not a viable solution for budget issues right now. But the state needs more cash to pay for any expansion of the highway from the Illinois state line to Madison.
Truck driver Elmer Williams said he hopes tolls can be avoided on the stretch of interstate.
“I’d go on the back roads (if there were tolls), just like I do now in Illinois,” Williams said. “There should be a better way of financing the expansion and cost of improving the highways.”
State Rep. Amy Loudenbeck, R-Clinton, said getting tolls approved would take some extra work and approval from the federal government.
“They’re an option that would probably require some kind of federal, probably congressional approval. There was a pilot program, but those slots have been filled as far as interstate upgrades on federal roads,” Loudenbeck said.
Tolls take the financial burden off of Wisconsin a bit by cashing in on out-of-state drivers, just like Illinois does.
“There are a lot of people who are asking, ‘Well, if they’re charging us to drive on their roads, perhaps we should be charging them to ride on our roads,'” Loudenbeck said.
The state is also looking at the option of increasing the gas tax.
However the I-90 expansion project is funded, Loudenbeck said it needs to be done.
“If infrastructure is to be a priority, getting more stability in that fund is going to mean finding new sources of revenue,” Loudenbeck said.
Loudenbeck said increasing license plate fees is also up for consideration.
The state has a commission studying all of the ways to fund the I-39-90 expansion. That group’s recommendations should be out in January, with actual construction set for 2015.
Walker will unveil his plan for transportation spending as part of his state budget introduced to the Legislature in February.