June 07, 2017 05:27 PM
Tucked into the major transportation finance bill that provides billions of dollars in funding for roads and bridges is a small provision that could cause a big debate.
It calls for a study of potential toll roads in Minnesota.
The provision orders the commissioner of transportation to issue the report to the legislature by January 2 of 2018. It will focus on a review of how existing "MnPASS" toll lanes currently work on Interstate 394 and 35W.
More broadly, it calls for a study of an expansion of toll highways, including a review of how they've worked in other states and how much revenue they've raised.
"Minnesota has looked at tolling before and the results are not good," said John Hausladen, president of the Minnesota Trucking Association.
"It just doesn't seem like Minnesota's road system is set up to really support tolls because you have to have volume to pay it back, and here's a fact most people don't realize - it's very expensive to run tolls."
Hausladen said if given the choice, the trucking association would prefer an increase in the gas tax to improve roads.
That too would increase their costs, but it would be more stable and predictable.
Drivers at a gas station in Minneapolis agreed.
"It is a hassle," says Joseph Taylor of Minneapolis, who lived with tollways in Illinois for 24 years. "It causes congestion. You need spare change in your car. If you don't have the right amount of change, or miss the toll, you have to go online and pay.
"If you don't pay, you pay a fine afterwards."
The transportation bill calls for MNDOT to summarize state and federal laws on tolling, identify federal "pilot projects" the state could participate in, study possible "private investment" in toll roads and review the latest in "tolling technology."
The bill doesn't specify how much the study will cost.
Updated: June 07, 2017 05:27 PM
Created: June 07, 2017 04:48 PM
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