Oregon Drivers May Pay Per Mile

Oregon Highway 103

As reported in Governing, Oregon may become the first state in the nation to charge drivers based on miles traveled to fund transportation projects.  The newly-created program is the result of years of study by state lawmakers and officials at the Oregon Department of Transportation, who see a tax on gasoline as an unsustainable way to fund the state’s transportation and transit needs.

The bill, passed by the legislature and awaiting Gov. John Kitzhaber’s signature, would allow up to 5,000 drivers to voluntarily enlist in a new program in which they’d pay a tax of 1.5 cents for every mile they drive in lieu of the 30 cents-per-gallon tax that drivers pay in the Beaver State.

According to Governing, this policy change could mark a trend, which has support of some policy groups and at the federal level.  As described,

Richard Geddes, director of the Cornell Program in Infrastructure Policy, says the idea of a mileage tax shouldn’t be that unusual to people, given that it mirrors the same principle used by utilities like water and energy providers: pay for what you use.

Geddes, who served on a federal commission that studied transportation revenue options, says the real promise of mileage-fees is that eventually, they could serve policy goals. If the fees were dynamic — so motorists paid more to drive during peak hours — they could become a useful tool to manage congestion.

Opponents question how the fee would function, its accuracy, and privacy concerns in tracking mileage. For more information, see the full story from Governing.

A similar proposal was considered as one of many recommendations considered as part of the State’s draft Greenhouse Gas Reduction Plan, however it is unclear whether it will be part of the final plan that will be released on July 25.  For more information on that developing plan for Maryland, see our previous post on Conduit Street.