Gov. Whitmer on why toll roads aren't really an option in Michigan


While Michigan lawmakers decide how to pay for fixing the state's crumbling roads, let's answer one of the most common questions: why don't we have toll roads?

In March, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer proposed a 45-cent increase in the gas tax, which would make Michigan's fuel tax the highest in the country.

Whitmer recently talked to Local 4's Hank Winchester about all things roads. They also discussed why toll roads aren't an option, in her opinion.

Related: Full Q&A with Gov. Whitmer on the plan to fix Michigan roads

Here's what she said:

On toll roads and auto industry

Gov. Whitmer: I went to Lake Orion for the General Motors announcement last week -- $300 million in cutting edge technology and electric vehicles. I talked to the plant manager and he was telling me, the service road to get in there, the whole road looked like that (riddled with potholes). And I said, "Oh my God, I've got to fix that damn road!" He said, "I have car haulers who will not come into the plant because of how much damage happens on that one mile stretch from the highway to the plant." So, you think about this company that we desperately need and want to grow and to evolve and build the cars of the future right here in Michigan, and yet, the service road to the company is so bad, service haulers won't come pick up the vehicles they're making. 

Hank: So then why not put some of the financial burden on the companies that are coming into Michigan? These are the questions we get. Why can't we do toll roads? Why can't we put it on trucking companies that are coming in and out?

Gov. Whitmer: So, yeah. Let's talk about toll roads. Michigan is a peninsula state. It's a wonderful thing. We're surrounded by water. The downside is, people don't cut through Michigan. No one drives through Michigan to get somewhere else. I drive through Ohio all the time. Illinois, Indiana. Pennsylvania. You can drive through those states and collect fees towards maintenance of the roads from out of starters. We don't have that luxury here in Michigan. We're a destination state and that's one of the reasons that toll roads have been such a difficult concept for a state like Michigan. 

I believe in the next five years, we may have the technology where we can actually charge "miles traveled" where you're in an electric vehicle, a hybrid, or a traditional gas vehicle. That you'll pay more akin to what your fair share of use is. Especially as more electric vehicles are on the roads. But we're not at that juncture yet. We can't wait five years to start fixing this problem. Four years from now, if we don't start doing anything different than we are now, the problem will be $3.5 billion. 

Also see: Why doesn't Michigan have toll roads?