Road Costs. Who Pays?

For every $10 WisDOT spends on roads, $9.20 goes to roads; 1.3 cents would go to the Madison-Milwaukee high speed rail development.

“If we massively subsidize roads made of concrete and asphalt for people who drive cars and trucks, there’s nothing wrong with a comparable subsidy for roads made of steel rails for people who ride trains.”

These are the concluding words of a op-ed by David R. Riemer, director of the Community Advocates Public Policy Institute at Community Advocates Inc. You know those roads? They’re heavily subsidized (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, April 3, 2010)

The following graphs were built from Riemer’s Excel spreadsheet and from Wisconsin Department of Transportation data: State Transportation Data June 2010


The source of Road funds - by percentage:

58.2% of Road funds come from the use of motorized vehicles: Fuel, Registration, Title, Fees.

41.4% of Road funds come from your Income, Property, and Sales taxes.


How are Road funds spent?

92% of State transportation revenues are spent on roads.

Mass Transit receives 4.42 %

Railroads, Harbors, Airports receive 3.36%

The proposed Milwaukee to Madison Rail line would get 0.13% of State Transportation Funds..

In dollars:

For every $10 WisDOT spends on roads:

$9.20 goes to roads

44 cents goes to Mass Transit operations

34 cents goes to Rail, Harbors and Airport

1.3 cents would go to the operation of the Madison-Milwaukee high speed rail.


We all use roads.

Car and truck drivers pay for roads with gasoline taxes and fees.

When a product is delivered the price includes the fuel and registration fees of the truck, and those fees are paid by you and me, the buyer.

And so everyone uses and pays for roads. While drivers pay per mile through gasoline taxes, their ride is subsidized by the rest of us.


Consider other common services: water, sewer, gas, telephone, and electricity. For these we charge closer to cost because we have meters in each house to calculate real usage.

As Riemer points out: “For the most part … we don’t sock it to the taxpayers to subsidize the users of these equally essential services. Rather, the users of those services pay, more-or-less, for 100% of the cost.”

All transportation is subsidized. From the sidewalk to the airport, an effective government will provide the infrastructure that serves all citizens. An effective government will remove barriers to accessing jobs, schools, hospitals, recreation, and commerce.

To serve taxpayers who should not drive do not drive, cannot drive, or do not want to drive, we need transportation policy that brings the benefits of mobility to all citizens.

Bill Sell

Last edited by Bill Sell.   Page last modified on April 04, 2011

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