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.