State governments are always looking for new sources of income, and MDOT has approved a study on adding toll roads in Michigan. As of 2006 thirty-four states have toll roads, with over five thousand miles of toll roads across the United States. Most of the states that do not have toll roads are in the west and southern states. Most systems today use electronic tolling systems in lieu of cash collection. Some examples are Chicago’s E-Z Pass system, Texas’s TX Tag, and Florida’s Sun Pass system.

Toll roads in the US have been around since the 1800’s. Yes, even before the automobile, toll roads were built. In Nevada, over 100 private toll roads were laid out between the 1850s and 1880s, some of them 200 miles long. The owners included stage companies, miners, and ranchers who built the roads, at least in part, to attract business for their primary investments. Many of today's modern toll roads have adopted open road tolling so you do not have to stop at a toll booth. You place a transponder in your vehicle, keep a credit balance in your account, and every time you pass a tolling gate at normal highway speeds, the toll is automatically withdrawn from your transponder account.

MLive reports “Legislation sponsored by Republican Sen. John Bizon of Battle Creek and signed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer Wednesday afternoon tasks the Michigan Department of Transportation with hiring an outside firm to conduct a tolling feasibility study and strategic implementation plan.” Is it a way to generate enough revenue to actually “fix the damn roads” in Michigan, as the Governor once described the issue? Something must give eventually. Michigan is doing a lot of summer road construction as it does every summer, but most of our roads are still in terrible shape. One big hurdle for toll roads in Michigan is the federal government prohibits states from tolling existing lanes of the interstate highway system, although there are some exceptions to that rule. We should have results of the study in about 18 months.

 

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