MADISON - Wisconsin business
leaders say a plan to introduce highway tolling to help pay for road
work could hurt the economy.
Some members of the state's
business lobby and members of the tourism, hospitality and
manufacturing sectors said tolls could deter tourists, increase the
cost of transporting goods and limit highway access.
In a recent statement, the
Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce business lobby said that it's
"greatly concerned about the impact tolling will have on the cost to
move manufactured goods and agricultural products.''
Tom Diehl, president of the
Association of Wisconsin Tourism Attractions, said tolling will
negatively impact residents.
"You're going to start
ripping off the general public going to and from work every day,''
The response calls into
question whether lawmakers will back tolling when some of their
powerful and deep-pocketed allies oppose it.
Some agricultural groups may
be open to the toll. Tamas Houlihan, director of the Wisconsin
Potato and Vegetable Growers Association, said his group knows the
state needs more revenue for roads and bridges and will leave the
decision about tolls up to legislators.
The plan would require
federal approval because under current law states can only begin
tolling in limited forms. A federal program allows states to have
broader scale interstate tolls if they apply and are accepted for
Supporters of tolling said
it would create a long-term revenue source for the state's
interstates, many of which were built in the 1960s and need to be
New technology allows for
tolls to be collected electronically with vehicle transponders
collecting information about which vehicles use the highway. A study
released by the state Department of Transportation in December
estimates the plan would take at least four years to implement and
could cost as much as $400 million.