Transportation

It may be time for Michigan toll roads


January 13, 2020, 7:34 AM

Is it time to try toll roads in Michigan? Perhaps so.

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Pay up, drivers. (File photo)

Chad Livengood, writing in Crain's Detroit Business, writes that fixing Michigan's damn roads via a gas tax is like pouring water into a bucket with a hole in the bottom. It's time for a more direct user fee for repairing I-94:

As Lansing enters the 10th consecutive year of a debate over long-term road funding that almost always revolves around fuel taxes, it may be time to explore different approaches to financing transportation infrastructure for specific projects of utmost importance to the state's future.

While taxing gasoline and diesel remains the fastest way to generate more revenue for roads, motor fuel taxes also are a dying form of taxation likely to shrink over time as automakers move to increase fuel efficiency and electrify their fleets.

"If you only do a gas tax, mark my words, in 10 years we'll be having the same conversation," said Eric Morris, a vice president at HNTB who leads the transportation engineering and planning firm's Michigan offices. "We have to find a new revenue stream."

Take the I-94 overpasses in Detroit, for starters. They're mostly in terrible condition, with plywood keeping the worst from dropping concrete onto motorists below. Right now, they're being replaced at the rate of a couple a year -- which means they'll be all done in...calculating. ... 2039. And that's just one freeway. 

There are arguments against tolling, including what Livengood calls a "myth" that Washington won't allow an individual state to set up tolls on any interstate highway built with federal money. There are ways around that. And tolling would be a way to extract more road-maintenance money from trucks, which put more stress on highway surfaces. 

If you're skeptical, it's worth a read. 


Read more:  Crain's Detroit Business


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