20.6.17

LET THE BENEFICIARY BEAR THE BURDEN.

Wisconsin's roads are in parlous shape, which is an interesting reversal of the way things were thirty years ago, when Wisconsin rebuilt its main roads when they deteriorated to the state new Illinois roads were.  But Illinois jacked up its tolls, and the toll roads are in something resembling a state of good repair, although you're delayed as much by the rebuilding work as you are by the toll plazas.

And thus do the pundits continue to call for implementing tolling on Wisconsin's interstate highways. That's not going to be an easy proposition, particularly with high state officials suggesting the tolls be collected on inbound traffic at the border.  A Trump Moslem ban or a Walker Flatlander Toll: compare and contrast.  But the advocates persist, even being willing to go along with a tax, even if the rhetoric is "user fee."
That’s a “tax” that would fall directly on those who are using the Interstate — those who are creating the wear and tear that necessitates repair and replacement work. It would also cause the burden of those costs to be shared with travelers from out of state and not fall solely on Wisconsin drivers.
That's Racine, and they're OK with tolling, as a way of expediting the widening of Interstate 94 north of the state line, in the hopes that it can handle the increased traffic in and out of the warehouses that have fled Illinois.  (Perhaps it's time to think about spending some money upgrading the old Chicago and North Western north of Kenosha and restoring the second track on the Freight Main, and inducing the warehouses to take more deliveries by rail but I digress.)

The problem with implementing tolls only on the expressways is that people will figure out how to bypass them.  In particular, the fleet operators and their 53 foot elephants will bypass them.  And beat up the old Federal and State highways in the bargain.

Perhaps we'll finally see serious proposals to make the heavy trucks pay for the roads they use.  "Wisconsin would join four other states in placing a per mile fee on the kinds of heavy trucks that do more damage to roads, under the idea offered by a member of the Legislature's budget committee."  The rent-seekers, predictably, want their rents protected.
Neal Kedzie, a former state senator and president of the Wisconsin Motor Carriers Association, said that his group wouldn't support a per mile fee on their hauling.

"It's a tricky business with small margins," Kedzie said of his industry. "We don't want to have prices passed on to consumers."
No, it's easier to pretend that the goods are being delivered more cheaply when the higher price is buried in a multiplicity of inconveniences: the 53 foot road-breaker occupying both lanes of Wisconsin's overdesigned roundabouts; the delays incurred when those 53 footers are slow away from the traffic light, or use up the entire left turn arrow just getting started, or those slow-motion drag races on the expressways I dealt with yesterday.

Thus, although Owen at Boots and Sabers might be correct that state legislatures, even those controlled by Republicans, might prefer raising taxes to spending less money, in this instance a user fee levied on the vehicles most responsible for wrecking the roads makes economic sense.

Oh, did anybody catch the Madison Democrat griping about all the ways the Legislature is avoiding raising the gasoline taxes?  Priceless.  Prius-driving metrofexuals can avoid most of those taxes.

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