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Former DOT Leader Mark Gottlieb Opposes Toll Roads

Gottlieb Calls Tolls Inefficient, Counterproductive

(WPR)---Wisconsin's former transportation secretary Mark Gottlieb says open road tolling is not the right fit for Wisconsin.

Leaders in the state Legislature said last week they were open to using tolling to collect more federal transportation dollars. But Gottlieb said Monday that lawmakers are right to consider revenue options for road funding, but he said tolls aren’t a good option.

"I applaud the leaders who are finally saying, 'This needs to stop. The borrowing needs to stop. The deterioration of our system needs to stop. We need to move forward with completion of rebuilding the freeway system in southeast Wisconsin.' Those are all good things, but we’ve got to be careful about how we do them," Gottlieb said.

Gottlieb was a civil engineer for two decades before becoming a state lawmaker and eventually the head of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.

He said state roads aren’t designed for tolls, so drivers will take secondary routes to avoid fees.

"You’re taking them off the safest system that we have, which is the interstate, and you’re putting them onto local roads," Gottlieb said. "You’re running them through local communities. You’re tearing up local roads and county roads. To me, that’s totally counterproductive."

Transportation Development Association of Wisconsin Executive Director Craig Thompson agreed Wisconsin’s roads need attention.

Thompson said he’s willing to explore tolling, but he said implementing a system takes time. He said first federal and state laws need to change, and then the state needs to build tolling infrastructure.

"We wouldn’t be able to implement tolling under the best scenario, even if the federal government lifted the prohibition, for probably six years by the time we could get it up and running," Thompson said. "So in the meantime, I think, the obvious way to raise the money to leverage that federal money would be through our existing user fees, which would be the gas tax and registration fee."

Thompson said user fees are critical for transit projects and he supports paying for Wisconsin’s highways with money from people who use the roads.

Listen to the full interview with Gottlieb and Thompson.

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