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State will hire outside firm to study possibility of converting some freeways into toll roads

toll road.  This shows the two common methods of collection of tolls: toll booth (on right) and electronic toll collection (on left).
Wikimedia Commons
Toll road on SR 417 near Orlando, Fla. The Michigan Department of Transportation will hire a firm to study the possibility of changing some freeways in the state to toll roads.

The Michigan Department of Transportation will hire an outside firm to study the potential of converting some freeways into toll roads. That’s under state Senate Bill 517 signed Wednesday by Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

The governor is looking for ways to generate more revenue to fix roads. Legislative leaders rejected Whitmer’s call for a gas tax increase to pay for road repairs. But some GOP lawmakers have expressed an interest in toll roads. The bill to study tolls as an option was sponsored by state Senator John Bizon (R-Battle Creek).

Jeff Cranson is with M-DOT.

“Tolling is a user fee, and it says that the people who use the roads pay for the roads," says Cranson. “And from the standpoint of not having to borrow from the general fund and borrow from other tax resources, it makes sense to fund transportation with user fees.”

Cranson says the study will look at how technology has made it easier to collect tolls, how improved vehicle fuel efficiency has affected gas tax revenue, and whether the public would support the use of tolls to help pay for road repairs.

“And it can take up to two years, that’s what the legislation allows for, to see where and how tolling might be one of the solutions to transportation funding in Michigan,” he says.

Cranson says the state last looked at the possibility of toll roads in the 1950s.

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Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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