In Oregon the challenges of funding infrastructure are pretty similar to what we're seeing across the rest of the country. They're looking to close the funding gaps caused by a rise in fuel efficiency and a decline in gas tax revenue.
So, they're testing, for now, a new system that replaces the state's gasoline tax with a tax per mile driven.
About 40 volunteers from around the state began testing the next generation of a “road usage charge” system last month. Instead of paying the gas tax (automatically added at the pump), pilot participants will pay a “per mile” charge based on the number of miles they drive. The charge is roughly equal to the amount of gas tax they would have paid for a vehicle that gets 20 miles to the gallon; most participants will be refunded gas taxes paid during the pilot.
Participants have a choice of five different plans involving a range of technologies and methods for reporting and paying. Drivers choose the way miles are reported with in-vehicle technology – some without GPS capability and others able to use it-- or could opt out of in-vehicle technology altogether by paying a flat annual charge in lieu of a per-miles-traveled basis. For the pilot, ODOT contracted with a private company, Sanef, to process payments as an alternative to ODOT and provide mileage reporting devices.
For pilot participants paying by the mile, a mileage reporting device plugged into a diagnostic port, located under the dashboard, reports the distance traveled. The reporting device only reports the number of miles driven, not where they are driven. The device wirelessly reports the miles driven to ODOT or Sanef, depending on the plan; ODOT or Sanef provides a monthly bill to participants based on their reported road use.
The pilot includes three mileage reporting device choices:
The Basic mileage reporting device reports the total number of miles driven only. This device does not include GPS and does not report the location of miles driven.
A Smartphone application and basic mileage reporting device uses the basic device to report the total miles driven and a participant can activate an app on an Android Smartphone to determine which miles are driven outside of Oregon, for which drivers are not charged. If the app is not turned on, only the total miles driven are reported.
The Advanced mileage reporting device reports the total number of miles driven and uses GPS to determine which miles are driven outside of Oregon, for which drivers are not charged.
ODOT's Randall Thomas, senior project manager for the road usage charge, reports that the DOT is expected to announce results of the pilot program after several months. He noted that following review, the legislature will make determinations identifying vehicles that will be subject to the charge; and, the rate they will be required to pay.