States Take the Lead in Implementing Driving Fees

With D.C. abandoning its leadership position in funding road infrastructure improvements, states such as Oregon and Minnesota are going forward with pilot plans to transition to road usage fees.

Larry Copeland and Paul Overberg report on declining transportation revenues due to greatly increased fuel efficiency and prospects to ameliorate the trend by charging drivers for their road usage at the state, rather than federal, level.

"Minnesota and Oregon already are testing technology to keep track of mileage. Other states, including Washington and Nevada, are preparing similar projects."

A major impediment is the privacy issue. Mention "GPS" and "big brother" jumps into the minds of those wary of government snooping in private lives.

"Oregon is recruiting volunteers for a pilot program starting in September to examine other ways (not using GPS technology) of reporting mileage, including use of in-vehicle technology similar to that used to locate charging stations for owners of electric vehicles.

"In Minnesota, 500 volunteers in largely urban Hennepin and mostly rural Wright counties have been testing a system using software installed on smartphones, says Chris Krueger, spokeswoman for the Minnesota Department of Transportation. "We can collect trip info and be able to simulate what it would be like to have a mileage-based user fee," she says.

"MinnDOT will provide a report on their research when the pilot is complete in December. "We know that eventually there will be an issue of not having enough revenue from the gas tax," Krueger says.

"A federal miles-traveled tax is unlikely, Joshua Schank, president of the non-partisan Eno Center for Transportation in Washington, D.C., says. "So far, the federal government has been terrified of even talking about this. The federal government needs to take a leadership role in helping states do this. You want to have sharing of information, compatibility across state lines."

Thanks to Loren Spiekerman

Full Story: States explore new ways to tax motorists for road repair

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