Wisconsin could finance much of an estimated $26.2 billion price tag for rebuilding and modernizing its currently free Interstate highway system by implementing tolls, according to a new report from the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute 

The research study explores the feasibility of using toll revenue to help finance what the group estimates is $12.5 billion of needed improvements to the state’s rural interstates and $13.7 billion for the southeastern region that includes Milwaukee.

The state would collect tolls on specific corridors only after roads were reconstructed and modernized, and all the revenue would be dedicated to the rural interstate and southeastern freeway system corridors, according to the report, which assumes the state would use an electronic tolling system.

The group estimates that tolls could fully finance the rural upgrades based on a 30-year program of reconstruction and assuming moderate toll rates are imposed comparable to those on other toll road systems.

Toll revenues would cover 17% of the cost of the southeastern program if tolls were collected only on new lanes, and 71% if collected on all lanes.

“The total $26.2 billion cost of this interstate program is far beyond the ability of current transportation funding sources to handle,” the report reads. “To rebuild the rural interstate and southeastern freeway system in a timely manner will require an additional source of transportation revenue.”

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