Searching for new funds for roads and transit, DFL leaders are eyeing tolls for the future St. Croix River bridge between Minnesota and Wisconsin.
Charging drivers as much as $3 to cross the bridge could raise enough money to pay for roughly half the construction cost.
"It's a potentially important source of revenue," said Rep. Frank Hornstein, DFL-Minneapolis, chairman of the House transportation finance committee.
"I'm very open to it," said Charlie Zelle, Gov. Mark Dayton's transportation commissioner. "I think it needs to be explored."
A few predictions:
- If the bridge has a $3 toll, a lot less people are going to use it. For Minneapolis politicians, that's not a bug, it's a feature.
- The revenue that is projected from such a toll will be, like electronic pull tabs, surprisingly disappointing, at least to people like Hornstein, who is to Minneapolis what Michael Paymar is to St. Paul -- a guy who can propose pretty much anything because he doesn't have to worry about reelection.
- Wisconsin won't cooperate.
No worries -- the DFL has a backup plan:
Raising the gasoline tax -- the traditional source of highway funding -- is another option favored by key lawmakers, including Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, chairman of the Senate transportation and public safety committee.
Dibble was on a governor's task force that recommended raising the gas tax by 40 cents a gallon over 20 years. Dayton declined to embrace the proposal, but he hasn't ruled out supporting some kind of gas-tax increase if the DFL-controlled Legislature passes one.
"He has not said ... 'I won't sign it,'" Zelle said.
Dibble said the Legislature should pass a gas-tax hike this session.
"What's politically possible is something we'll have to figure out," he said.
Gotta find some way to pay for all those choo-choos, people.