Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed a bill that would allow the Michigan Department of Transportation to study the feasibility of tolls on several highways in the state.
Senate Bill 517 was introduced by Republican Sen. John Bizon of Battle Creek. Gov. Whitmer signed the bill into law on Wednesday afternoon.
The state has previously said that tolls may be problematic because Michigan is a peninsula, with most of the traffic coming from people who live here. There is also fear that tolls would discourage tourism.
During a House Transportation Committee meeting, a representative from MDOT expressed interest in tolls at I-94, I-75, US 127, and I-96. The reasoning? Heavy commercial and tourist traffic on those routes.
I-94 runs from Port Huron near the Blue Water Bridge from Canada all the way through New Buffalo and into Chicago.
I-75 runs from the Michigan-Ohio border in Monroe County through the Upper Peninsula into Sault Ste. Marie.
I-96 runs from metro Detroit all the way through Grand Rapids to Muskegon.
US-127 picks up at the Michigan-Ohio border in the middle part of the state and runs north through Jackson, Lansing, and Mt. Pleasant before meeting up with I-75.
The study will also look to see which drivers--local or out of state--would be coughing up the most money in tolls.
The study is receiving bipartisan support.
As far as funding the independent study, that money could come from MDOT, a federal grant, or a mix of both.
“We are paying a toll anyway, I have had to have windshields replaced, twice,” said Democratic Rep. Tenisha Yancey of District 1.
“This is just one other study that I think we need to look at, and if it seems like it is viable, then it is something to explore. If it is not, then you move on from it,” said Republican Rep. Jason Sheppard of District 56.
The last time a study was done looking into the possibility of toll roads here in Michigan was 12 years ago.
“I have had coffee hours on this issue and there, I have split votes in my coffee hours from on constituents, some who believe that toll roads are the way to go; some of whom believe that we don’t have enough traffic flow through for Michigan and that is exactly what we need to find out,” said Rep. Yancey.