Tolls on the St. Croix River Crossing?

“I think this is a crazy proposal,” Rep. Bob Dettmer (R-Forest Lake) said. “I will not be voting for any kind of toll road or toll bridge between the great states of Minnesota and Wisconsin.”

In an attempt to find new ways to fund roads and transit in Minnesota, the Star Tribune reports that DFL leaders want to explore the idea of placing tolls on the yet-to-be-built St. Croix River Crossing.

According to the “Innovative Financing Study” prepared for MnDOT in 2011, using tolls on the St. Croix River Crossing could pay for nearly half of its capital costs, as well as all of its ongoing operations and maintenance costs.

"It's a potentially important source of revenue," Rep. Frank Hornstein (D-Mpls.), chairman of the House transportation finance committee told the Star Tribune.

Gov. Mark Dayton's transportation commissioner reportedly told the Star Tribune that he’s open to the idea and thinks it “needs to be explored.”

"Tolling the St, Croix River Crossing is operationally practical and can provide a significant new funding source, the 2011 study states. However, tolling is only feasible if Minnesota and Wisconsin join in getting specific federal and state legislation passed, and the 2006 Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for the St. Croix River Crossing is re‐evaluated to determine if additional environmental review is needed to address the tolling approach.”

The project revenues — charging $3 for a round trip — could support 40‐60 percent ($265 million to $390 million) of the project’s upfront construction costs, according to the 2011 Tolling Options study.

Rep. Bob Dettmer (R-Forest Lake) said taxpayers in both Minnesota and Wisconsin are already paying for roads and the bridge, and he sees no reason to make them pay more.

“I think this is a crazy proposal,” Dettmer said. “I will not be voting for any kind of toll road or toll bridge between the great states of Minnesota and Wisconsin.”

For some, this new tax could amount to an additional $1,500 a year, Sen. Karin Housley (R-St. Mary’s Point) said.

“It's important to provide adequate funding for Minnesota's infrastructure; however, a St. Croix bridge toll would dip even further into the pocketbooks of those who live and work near the Minnesota-Wisconsin border,” Housley said. “We want to encourage people to come into our state and contribute to our economy, not burden them with additional fees and taxes.”

Rep. Kathy Lohmer (R-Stillwater) said she was “pretty baffled” by the proposal.

“Why we’re talking about funding now is perplexing,” Lohmer said. “It’s a done deal, the project is totally funded. So no, I don’t support tolls.

“Why Minnesota is looking for new revenue is beyond me,” she continued. “We don’t have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem —we can’t keep going back to the taxpayers for more money.”

On the Wisconsin side of the river, State Sen. Sheila Harsdorf (R-River Falls) agrees. The senator sent the following statement to Hudson Patch: 

“Construction of this long overdue project is finally moving forward and funding sources have already been identified by both states. Now is not the time to delay this vital transportation link between our two states with proposals that have already been considered and rejected.”

Many area residents also chimed in with their reactions on a Hudson Patch Facebook post asking, "Would you still use the new St. Croix River Crossing if it was a toll bridge?" Here is a sampling of some responses:

Angela Edwin: I wouldnt pay to use it at all. A toll is ridiculous! They pushed so hard for the new bridge so they need to find out a way to pay for it without penalizing the public.

Shaye Kalik: Nope! I'd venture farther into wisconsin instead of spending my $$ in Minnesota. Well, that or use 94.

Passport House Cleaners Lange: I think there might be some outrage over this as the residents that supported this bridge and all they had to go through to get it, were never told it would be a toll bridge thus defeating its purpose.

Jim Dyer: Tax this, Tax that. Why? so they can waste more of our money??? Can someone say reduce the cost of government???

Dennis Crawford: Oh sure... Broaden your tax base MN (for more wasteful spending), by taxing out of state residents traveling into your state. I don't believe that's legal... or at least it shouldn't be. What a massive burden that would put on daily commuters.

Ted Johnston: I've always liked use fees instead of general taxes. Why should a person in Milwaukee or Mankato have to pay for a bridge in Stillwater. I would think that any toll would have to be shared between the states, otherwise, could you see the rate war. 
That being said, if there were to be tolls, it should have been voted on as a toll bridge. Adding tolls now amounts to a bait and switch. 
Stop the bridge until there is an agreement from both sides to not impose tolls.

Joel Larsen: Can't happen unless Wisconsin goes along with it along with an act of Congress. Pretty doubtful it would happen.

What do you think? Should there be a usage fee or toll on the yet-to-be-built St. Croix River Crossing? Tell us in the comments.

Colonel Mustard February 22, 2013 at 08:46 PM
Why is it necessary to bring the Constitution of the United States into this discussion? My comments and those of others have nothing to do with "freedom of speech". My comments had to do with "a spirit of negativity" and the continuous repetition of the same comments; not with the rights of people to make them. Yes housing prices are down over what they were before the Great Recession, but they are rising as the economy slowly recovers from the depth of recesion. Housing starts are increasing on an annual basis. There are currently 14 new homes under construction within a 3 minute drive from my house. With $4 gas comes 40-50 mpg vehicles to level the playing field. We live in the 13 county Twin Cities Metropolitan Statistical Area as defined by the US Census Bureau, which includes St. Croix and Pierce counties. In our particular corner of the area there is a river which physically divides the state, but it does not divide the economic area. We should be happy and proud to live in such a growing and prosperous area, many other parts of the country should be this lucky. Good infrastructure and schools are part of what keeps such a metro area growing and healthy. Most people (including me) didn't think that the LRT line in Mpls would be used. I was wrong as it is highly successful and two more lines are being built. This progress is not helped by constant nagging and whining. The bridge is going to be built whether over a river or a lake.
Micheal Foley February 22, 2013 at 08:58 PM
Most states would want people to come in from outside to help extend the economic base of the state. Afterall, these Wisconsinites buy things in Minnesota and contribute to the success of the companies they work for. Shouldn't everyone want that?
Bradley Johnson February 22, 2013 at 10:05 PM
Alex C, did the costs for the 35W bridge include constructing three miles of four-lane highway on one side and reconstructing three miles of four-lane highway on the other side? Did the costs for the 35W bridge include: - Historic and environmental mitigation? - Extensive trail facilities that include converting an existing lift bridge to a bike and pedestrian crossing? - Adding turn lanes to two intersections to improve capacity? - Realigning an intersection to improve access points and motorists' safety? - Creating a shared center turn lane by converting north and south frontage roads from two 12-foot lanes into three 11-foot lanes? - Adding a trail along a frontage road to connect to a new loop trail? - Adding ponds to improve storm water treatment and water quality? - Creating new access to a highway from a frontage road? - Realigning a smaller bridge to include bike and pedestrian trails? - Constructing noise and retaining walls? - Adding traffic signals, lighting, signing and pavement markings? - Implementing a new Intelligent Transportation Systems that includes cameras and traffic detection? - Relocating utilities? The majority of the costs of the St. Croix Crossing project are above and beyond the cost of building a functional new bridge. Rather than wasting money, the project efficiently solves more than a dozen transportation issues that will benefit current and future residents of both states for decades to come.
Matt February 22, 2013 at 10:11 PM
Will the St. Croix bridge include ten lanes and structural support for light rail? Nope. Didn't think so. As has been explained, the 35W bridge was roughly the same cost as just the bridge part of this project yet it serves 10x the people. Yet the extra hundreds of millions of dollars for non-bridge improvements do not change the fact that this will only increase the mobility of ~16,000 people a day (likely a high estimate since VMT is decreasing YOY). Therefore it is still a fact that we're subsidizing a daily user of this bridge by over $1,500 a year per person. Glad you think that's a smart investment since then you won't feel ripped off like the rest of us as we pay off those bonds for 40 years.
Bradley Johnson February 23, 2013 at 01:00 AM
Do you live in Stillwater, Matt? Do you deal with the congestion every day? Do you support the downtown businesses that are looking forward to getting rid of the weeknight and weekend traffic jams? Do you drive on Highway 36 often even though you rarely use the bridge? The benefits of the bridge crossing go far beyond the people who are driving back and forth across the bridge every day. So, yes, I do think it's a good investment for the present and the future. And don't you think an efficient, fast and convenient crossing that doesn't take drivers through Stillwater is going to attract more users? One of the big arguments against the bridge for years was that it would cause development in Wisconsin. Now opponents say sprawl is over, VMT is decreasing, gas costs are rising and everyone's going to live in a sustainable urban environment where we walk to our jobs or take mass transit. And that's the way it's going to be for the foreseeable future. That ignores reality. Millions of people in Minnesota pay for public transportation infrastructure they never use. The cost for light rail alone is estimated by MnDOT to be as high as $100 million per mile. Ridership on light rail and commuter rail is subsidized to the tune of nearly $30 per ticket by taxpayers.


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