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View from around the state: Say no to tollways

“I live in southeastern Wisconsin, where a lot of my constituents have an (Illinois Tollway) I-Pass,” state Rep. Robin Vos, who represents part of Racine County, said in a recent interview on the Wisconsin Radio Network. “It’s easy to use; it’s convenient. So I’d like to have it at least be a part of the conversation.”

We also live in southeastern Wisconsin, and we see things differently. The I-Pass may be easy to use, but going through the tolls still adds up.

Also, for those people without an I-Pass, which is quite a few people, it’s expensive, inconvenient and just plain annoying to have to stop at tolls every few miles — not to mention it’s an additional tax on businesses and residents.

Republicans have relentlessly campaigned on the importance of not creating new taxes for taxpayers and businesses. That is exactly what tollways would do. Sure it could bring in new revenue for our state, yet at the same time it might not bring in that much.

There could be unintended consequences, Tom Vandenberg, general counsel for Schneider National said in a phone interview with The Journal Times.

If there are other reasonable routes drivers can take, they will, he said. If drivers change routes, then creating tollways wouldn’t accomplish the state’s goal of collecting more money for the state transportation fund. Such route changes could cause wear, tear and congestion on roads that may not to be able to handle it.

There can be other unintended consequences. The tourists we are counting on collecting the money from may decide not to travel through our state in order to avoid the tolls. That not only doesn’t help our transportation fund, it also hurts local restaurants and shops that depend on tourists.

There is also a cost to collecting funds from drivers who skip through the tolls, which we pointed out two years ago when we denounced the same proposal — a proposal which has been around for a while.

Our transportation fund, which is largely funded through vehicle registration fees and the gas tax, is something our state needs to protect and fully fund. (Need we remind you that former Gov. Jim Doyle took money from the transportation fund and moved it to the general fund?)

Now there is a multimillion-dollar shortfall projected for the transportation fund in the next decade and Vos, the speaker-elect of the Assembly, is right to look for alternatives to raising the gas tax.

Tolls, however, are not the answer.

As we pointed out in the past, rather than hunt down the toll skippers, state officials should hunt for a better solution.

— The Journal Times, Racine

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