Tolling, Road User Charge Examined at Annual Transportation Conference

Transportation finance and road usage charging are the themes of the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association's annual conference held in Portland from April 26 to 28 in downtown Portland. Oregon's road usage charge begins July 1.

3 minute read

April 27, 2015, 9:00 AM PDT

By Irvin Dawid


Congressman Earl Blumenauer kicked-off the conference as the keynote speaker, expressing his frustration with both Congress and President Obama in their inability to do anything more than pass patch bills to keep the Highway Trust Fund solvent. "We are about to introduce the 24th short term extension of the federal transportation funding bill," he proclaimed, "yet five states, 'red Republican states', have increased their gas taxes this year."

Blumenauer also mentioned that the City of Roses will be opening "the world's largest non-auto bridge in 40 days", serving bus, light rail, streetcars, and pedestrians and cyclists."

The first session dealt with road usage charging (RUC), the adopted term for the 1.5-cent-per-mile fee, also called the vehicle-miles-traveled (VMT) fee and the mileage-based user fee (MBUF). Portland was chosen as the location as the nation's first RUC goes into effect on July 1 in Oregon, albeit for only 5,000 volunteer motorists who will have their state gas taxes refunded.

Jim Whitty, manager of the OReGO program in the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT), stated that many participants favor the "maximum" annual fee option, i.e., drive all you want fee for $180, which would appear to conflict with some of the goals of the program. However, it enables participants to bypass mileage-recording equipment.

OReGO was unveiled on Friday, April 24, reports Lizzy Duffy of Oregon Public Broadcasting. "The [1.5-cent-per-mile] rate will eventually be adjusted for heavier vehicles that would be putting more wear on the roads, like trucks or cars driving during rush-hour."

The Beaver State is not alone in pushing road usage charging. "Oregon is a member of the Western Road Usage Charge Consortium (PDF), an 11-state research collective examining a per-mile or road usage charging as a regional policy in the West," according to OReGO's website. "Elsewhere in the nation, Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Maine, Delaware and Florida are studying or investigating per-mile charging for roads."

Travis Dunn of D'Artagnan Consulting which recently was awarded a contract to support the WRUCC, began his presentation by placing the figure 57.5 and asking the audience what it meant. He then gave a hint: "How many of you drove here and will submit expense requests?" 

57.5-cents per mile is what the IRS allows for cost per mile driven. That figure has gone steadily up, while the gas tax hasn't gone anywhere in 22 years. In fact, the tax has lost 50% of its purchasing power, according to IBTTA.

The biggest challenge the RUC faces is getting off the ground—that's why all eyes are on ODOT. The challenges are formidable, speakers made that quite clear. But the stakes couldn't be higher as increased fuel efficiency, alternative vehicles and highway construction costs rising higher than the rate of inflation are making even current gas tax increases insufficient to meet present needs. 

Sunday, April 26, 2015 in Planetizen

Large historic homes and white picket fences line a street.

The End of Single-Family Zoning in Arlington County, Virginia

Arlington County is the latest jurisdiction in the country to effectively end single-family zoning.

March 23, 2023 - The Washington Post

Amtrak Acela Express train passing through Harrison station in Newark, New Jersey

‘Train Daddy’ Andy Byford to Oversee Amtrak’s High-Speed Rail Efforts

Byford, who formerly ran NYC Transit and Transport for London, could bring renewed vigor to the agency’s plans to expand regional rail in the United States.

March 28, 2023 - StreetsBlog NYC

Buses in downtown Seattle on the dedicated 3rd Avenue bus lanes

Seattle Bus Lane Cameras Capture Over 100,000 Violations

An automated traffic enforcement pilot program caught drivers illegally using transit lanes more than 110,000 times in less than a year.

March 28, 2023 - Axios

View of Statue of Liberty with New York City skyline in background

Immigration Grows, Population Drops in Many U.S. Counties

International immigration to the country’s most populous areas tripled even as major metropolitan areas continued to lose population.

March 31 - The New York Times

Detroit Sports Arena

$616 Million in Development Incentives Approved for District Detroit

The “Transformational Brownfield” incentives approved by the Detroit City Council for the $1.5 billion District Detroit still require approval by the state.

March 31 - Detroit Free Press

A red sign reads, “Welcome to New Canaan.”

Affordable Housing Development Rejected for Lack of Third Staircase in Connecticut

The New Canaan Planning Commission rejected a development proposal, including 31 below-market-rate apartments, for lack of a third staircase, among other reasons, at a time when advocates are pushing to relax two-staircase requirements.

March 31 - Stamford Advocate

New Updates on PD&R Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

HUD’s 2023 Innovative Housing Showcase

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.