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Debate on tolls for Michigan highways speeds up
KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - There's a movement afoot to put toll booths along Michigans highways, charging drivers to create revenue to fix our crumbling roads.
This comes as the Michigan Department of Transportation is saying it doesn't have enough funds to fix all of the roads that need attention.
The Michigan Chamber of Commerce is behind the new push for toll roads.
But Newschannel 3 found out that not everyone is ready to take the "free" out of Michigans freeways.
It just directly impacts commerce. It impacts how we move our goods around the state and how we move our people around the state. We believe toll roads could be part of an overall solution to Michigans funding problems for infrastructure, said Jim Holcomb, the Senior Vice President of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce.
Because federal funds were used to build our highway system back in the 1950s, Michigan can't switch them to toll roads unless lots of money is paid back to the feds.
But the chamber said there are ways around this road block.
If we're talking about either a new highway or new lanes on existing highways, those could be tolled. It's always possible to work with congress to get exemptions and coordinate with them, Holcomb said.
The idea of highway tolls has been kicked around Lansing for years.
State Senator Tonya Schuitmaker said they'll now be looked at along with a variety of other solutions.
A lot of the roads that are in poor condition are local and county roads. So putting in toll roads does nothing to solve those problems, said Schuitmaker, a republican from Lawton.
State Rep. Sean McCann agrees that money could be better spent elsewhere.
To me, toll roads are one of many options but they represent a regressive option. Really it's kind of a tax increase on motorists when we should really be looking at other options, said McCann, a democrat from Kalamazoo.
While drivers are fed up with the crumbling roads, reactions are mixed.
I think it's a good idea. I think people would be more receptive to that than raising the gas tax or any other types of funding they're talking about doing, said Dave Beveridge, a driver from Oakland County.
Thats what our state taxes are for, right? Very costly. I have several friends who commute back and forth and it would added an added stress to their budget Im sure, said Anita Alef, a driver from Detroit.
MDOT said it will work with the governor and lawmakers on whatever solutions they come up with.
Gov. Rick Snyder's office told Newschannel 3 that tolls could be part of the discussion on fixing the roads.
But bringing them in would cost billions of dollars and the governor will continue to work with the legislature on solutions.