Oregon Could Charge Gas Tax By Mile, Not Gallon

Hybrid cars and fuel efficient motors are using fewer gallons of gas, a trend expected to decrease revenues from per-gallon gas taxes -- the main funding for road-building. The proposed system would track drivers' mileage with on-board GPS devices.
June 14, 2006, 11am PDT | Nate Berg
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The state of Oregon is exploring alternative methods to keep gas tax revenues steady in a market that is steadily becoming more fuel efficient. The proposal is to monitor drivers and levy taxes depending on how many miles people are driving, when they are driving, and where they are driving. The system depends on the Global Positioning Systems installed in most new cars to keep track of how and where they are being driven.

The system is currently being tested in about 300 Portland-area cars, but even if the test-run is successful, the state Department of Transportation doesn't expect it to be implemented for nearly 14 years.

"The mileage-fee project was designed by engineers at Oregon State University. The system works by using a Global Positioning System in a car to determine the number of miles traveled inside and outside of Oregon and at what times, which could lead to peak-driving-time fees. When the car pulls into a service station, a radio transmitter sends the data to a reader in a gas pump. The mileage fee is added to the bill, and the gas tax is subtracted."

"'Still, there will be people who don't believe it,' said Jim Whitty, who is overseeing the project for the transportation department. 'We know the navigation systems are more invasive, and they will be standard equipment on GM cars a year from now.'"

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Published on Tuesday, June 13, 2006 in The Seattle Times
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