Oregon Testing Pay-Per-Mile System As An Alternative To State’s Gas Tax

With more fuel-efficient vehicles and hybrid cars hitting the roads every day and requiring less gas, some states are looking into how they can still collect enough money from drivers to keep maintain their roads and bridges. Oregon is one such state, with a new test program that allows volunteers to pay the state not for the amount of fuel they buy at the pump with a gas tax, but for how many miles they drive.

Greater fuel efficiency in cars means less revenue is generated for the state, prompting Oregon to seek alternatives to make up for that loss of cash from gas taxes. Starting July 1, up to 5,000 volunteers will be allowed to sign up to drive with devices that collect information about how much they’ve driven and where, reports KGW.com.

Those drivers will agree to pay $0.015 per mile traveled on public roads — with private property and out-of state miles not included — instead of the current tax they pay for gas. Fueling up will still mean paying that tax at the time, but drivers in the program will then either get a credit or a bill to pay the difference at the end of the month.

Though critics of the OreGo program, including electric and hybrid car owners who say such a tax would be unfair and perhaps deter others from purchasing green vehicles, state officials think it’s only fair for owners of such vehicles to chip in for maintaining roads like everyone else.

“We know in the future, our ability to pay for maintenance and repair… will be severely impacted if we continue to rely on the gas tax,” said Shelley Snow with the Oregon Department of Transportation.

Amid privacy concerns over the digital devices that track miles, the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon said the state built protections into the program, such as drivers being able to opt out of the program and install an odometer device that doesn’t use GPS tracking.

If your device does use GPS, the state and private vendors that supply the devices will destroy records of location and daily metered use after 30 days. Law enforcement won’t be able to access that information either, unless a judge gives approval.

After the test program, it’ll be up to the state legislature to decide whether to adopt a mandatory road usage charge.

So far Oregon is the only state to try this kind of program, though California created a committee last year to research alternatives to the gas tax and possibly develop a pilot program and Washington state also set money aside for something similar. A bill in Indiana is currently in the works that would direct the state to look at alternatives and come up with a test project along those lines as well.

Oregon to test pay-per-mile idea as replacement for gas tax [KGW.com]

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