Democratic Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer last week signed legislation setting up a study of Michigan highways for the feasibility of turning one or more into toll roads. The very idea is repulsive to many drivers.  But others, and some budget experts, say the state needs to come up with new ways to generate money. The Michigan Department of Transportation at least wants to put more time and study into the potential of toll roads. Battle Creek Republican State Senator John Bison is the primary sponsor of the legislation setting up the study. And he emphasizes, its just that. A study that may produce some ideas or recommendations. But there is no requirement the idea goes any further than that. MDOT has four primary highways it wants to explore.  I-94, running through Calhoun County and a number of other lower peninsula counties may be the most fitting for the idea. It carries a tremendous amount of commercial traffic and in the summertime, the tourist traffic in normal years is also very heavy.

The other highways the state is going to look closely at are I-75, US 127, and I-96.  All offer a balance of heavy commercial and normal traffic. The study will look closely at which drivers, whether local or out of state, would be hit hardest by a toll system. 34 states now use toll roads or charge for tunnel or bridge crossings. One issue that enters into the picture is the federal government frowns on states setting up new fee structures for drivers on existing interstates. No word how that might be addressed if the study recommends an interstate like I-94 should be changed to a toll road. Some detractors of the toll road idea are already asking if revenue estimates from the study can be trusted.

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