Tolling Wisconsin’s U.S. interstates could raise billions for the state’s most-traveled thoroughfares, but the cost would be borne by motorists, big upfront investments would be needed and it’s unclear if the state could get the federal approval it would require, a new state Department of Transportation study finds.Who do these geniuses think pay for the roads now? If not through the federal excise taxes (on motor fuel and tires) and the state sales taxes (directly on vehicle repairs resulting from the wear and tear, indirectly on anything else that's taxed) are these roads coming from the Easter Bunny? From Donald Trump's casino losses? And how should a toll booth be a different sort of upfront investment from additional lanes on the existing roads? One way, the road authorities spend money to use prices to allocate capacity: the other way, they spend money to provide capacity that users will allocate by waiting time. Which is the Pareto-preferable outcome?
The study also finds Gov. Scott Walker’s road-funding plan for the next two years, which holds the line on taxes and fees, puts Wisconsin roads on course to worsen “severely” over the next decade.
The state's problem is that there are some roads where the waiting time is growing untenable, as is the wear and tear from all those delayed vehicles, and there might be some roads that could better revert to local maintenance, or to dirt, or back to the land.
Wisconsin’s transportation-funding woes stem from rising construction costs and stagnant revenues in the state transportation fund, which come almost entirely from gas taxes and vehicle registration fees. As the state’s road-funding picture has worsened in recent years, lawmakers increasingly have resorted to greater borrowing and delaying major highway projects, such as the Verona Road expansion in Dane County.Sometimes, it might be in the public interest to let some of the roads crumble. I looked at that in detail last year.