Using a device that tracks miles driven, Oregon State University researchers have demonstrated the viability of a system to charge road users based on their mileage, in lieu of adding state tax to the purchase of fuel.
Other states will be watching closely as Oregon--the first state in the nation to adopt a state fuel tax in 1919--breaks new ground in alternate funding sources. Greater use of alternate fuel sources for vehicles and more fuel-efficient cars and trucks are cutting overall revenues to highway trust funds, pressing states to tap new financing sources.
Oregon lawmakers in 2001 set up a "Road User Fee Task Force" to explore alternatives to the state gasoline tax for financing road construction and maintenance. Working with the Oregon Department of Transportation, OSU researchers have since explored ways to calculate road-use costs and obtain payment from drivers--other than the traditional collection of a tax imposed on the underlying sale price of fuel. At a meeting of the task force on May 14, OSU's Mobile Technology Solutions Laboratory demonstrated that its prototype system for tracking mileage per vehicle between fuel fill-ups was viable.
The research is expected to lead to a pilot program in the city of Eugene, Ore., to outfit 250 cars with mileage-tallying devices about the size of a cellular phone.
As previously tested, the devices let the state measure and record an individual vehicle's mileage between fuel stops. Plans are to carry out a two-year pilot program of the system in that city.