Wisconsin would earn billions of dollars from interstate tolling - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Wisconsin would earn billions of dollars from interstate tolling, according to DOT study

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MADISON (WKOW) -- A new study released by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation shows the state would collect several billion dollars over 30 years from tolls on its US interstates. 

The study, commissioned by state lawmakers and Gov. Scott Walker, suggests that the state could net between $14 billion and $41 billion dollars from collecting tolls from 2020 through 2050. 

"If that's a net gainer for us without us having to raise other taxes, I think that's something that we should consider," said Sen. Robert Cowles, R- Green Bay, who is awaiting an audit report on the state's spending before making a decision on whether or not a tollway system is necessary. 

A statewide toll system has been the topic of several assembly meetings throughout the years.

"It doesn't hurt to keep looking at things periodically, it may be a nice partial solution to the dilemma that we face," said Sen. Cowles.

Under the current funding level, outlined by Gov. Walker, the state would face a transportation funding shortfall of $852 million dollars over the next decade, according to the study. The shortfall could potentially delay many major roadway projects.

"It's a much more equitable system, it gives people choices, and yet people from out of state are paying a big part of the freight, so I think it has a great deal of appeal," said Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D- 64th District, who favors a tollway system as long as there is a suitable plan.

The study estimates the project would require upfront investments between $350 million and $400 million to implement. 

Another big step would be receiving federal permission to toll US interstates, including I-94, I-90, I-43, I-41, and I-39.

"Suddenly, it has more legs at the moment than it had before, so we'll be looking at it and giving a fiscal analysis and we'll see," said Sen. Cowles.

Any plan for toll roads would take at least four years to implement, the study found.

If implemented, tolls may be collected electronically, using transponders in vehicles or by taking a picture of a license plate and mailing toll bills to the owners, the study assumes.

The study does not recommend whether or not tolls should be implemented, rather, it lays out a broad outline of its pros and cons, and how it should be carried out. 

Currently, 28 states have tollway systems, whereas 22 do not, including Wisconsin.  

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