Last month, in a blog post we mentioned that California has one of the highest gas taxes in the nation and we wondered if it wasn’t time for a rethink in the way we finance our roads. Other West Coast states are apparently way ahead of us.
In July, Oregon became the first state to establish a voluntary road usage chargesystem for transportation funding. The system, which goes into effect in 2015, will allow up to 5,000 Oregon motorists to pay a 1.5 cent per mile road usage charge to Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) rather than the 30-cent per gallon gas tax. (Participants in the program must apply for a refund of the gas tax and also can seek a refund for miles driven on private property.)
It’s a fact that Californians are buying less gas. With the pressure on carmakers to make even more efficient hybrid and alternative fuel vehicles, gas consumption is only going to go lower. And, with the advances in smartphone applications and GPS technology, it’s far easier to track actual vehicle miles traveled from outside the car. That’s why alternative funding mechanisms like the program adopted in Oregon may become are likely to be the rule, rather than the exception, in the future.
The time is now in California for a broad discussion of how best to finance our future transportation needs in our ever-changing world, including such innovative ideas as Oregon’s road usage charge.