Wis. transportation policy needs an overhaul
How the Wisconsin transportation system is funded needs an overhaul so that its various users pay their fair share for its maintenance, Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin Communications Director Dave Schlabowske wrote in a recent blog post at bfw.org.
Trail passes bought by bicyclists, but not required of hikers, covers less than 50 percent of the cost of state trails. And Federal Highway Administration data shows that "gas taxes now only fund about 50 percent of our federal interstates and highways, not too much better than bikes," Schlabowske said.
Wisconsin has some 114,000 miles of public roads, 100,000 miles of which are local roads funded primarily by property taxes and local fees, not the gas tax, he pointed out. "That means you pay for them whether you own a car or not." Through property taxes and fees they pay, cyclists should expect more on-street facilities, like bike lanes and bicycle boulevards, he said.
In lieu of getting people who drive motor vehicles "to pay their full share" for roads, which would be difficult under the current complex funding system, Schlabowske argued that bicyclists and pedestrians could easily pay for their trails.
"It would be pretty simple to pay the entirety of the cost of trails by simply doubling the trail pass fee" and requiring hikers to pay them, too, Schlabowske wrote. He said trail passes for nonmotorized urban trails should also be considered.
Snowmobilers and ATV riders, by paying vehicle registration fees and gas taxes, cover the costs of their trails. "Would you pay more, as the snowmobilers are willing to do, if that money went into a fund just to maintain and build trails?" Schlabowske asked readers.
Licensing of bicycles hasn't generated much money in the past but "we might be able to make it work today with modern technology, if it had the potential to raise millions of dollars like the proposed $34 registration fee for our state's 200,000 snowmobiles."
The Transportation Finance and Policy Commission was created to address the financing of Wisconsin's future transportation needs. Listening session are being held throughout the state and comments can be sent to its members at email@example.com.
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