Plan To Study If Toll Roads Make Sense In Michigan Moves Ahead In Legislature

WWJ News
November 06, 2019 - 5:12 pm

LANSING (WWJ) - A bill to look into possible toll roads in Michigan is headed to the state Senate.  

The Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has approved legislation that calls for a feasibility study on putting tolls on certain state highways.  

"Over the years, the lawmakers have looked at this, but never pulled the trigger," WWJ Lansing Bureau Chief Tim Skubick reported.

At a hearing Wednesday, State Senator Tom Barrett, a Republican from Charlotte, stressed that studying the issue doesn't mean that the state has to move forward.

"This does not in any way commit the state to do tolling, or separates, anything to that effect," Barrett explained. "It would simply allow us to explore the option of if we can, so that we can have the policy discussion about if we should, and if we should what that should look like."

The cost hasn't been determined, but an MDOT representative says the study should be paid for out of the department's current budget. 

Skubick asked Barret if he could guarantee Michigan drivers that if we put in toll roads, they'd be pothole free.

"I make no such guarantees," Barrett said. "And I think if you travel other states that have toll roads, they're kept in pretty good repair. I'm not going to make anybody a promise that they're not gonna hit a crack in a road on a tolled highway somewhere 20 years from now." 

This comes as leaders in Lansing continue to debate how to pay to fix Michigan's crumbling roads and freeways. Republican lawmakers roundly rejected a controversial plan by Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to enact a 45 cents-a-gallon tax hike.  

The Michigan Department of Transportation earlier this year said at least $1.5 billion more is needed to improve the condition of state highways. 

Thirty five states currently have toll roads. Federal law doesn't allow toll roads on interstate freeways like I-75 and I-94.