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Oregon becomes first state to create a per-mile road use charge
 
With a 24-6 vote in the Senate and a 47-12 vote in the House, the Oregon Legislature passed SB 810 to create a per-mile road use charge for up to 5000 participants, making Oregon the first state in the nation to implement a mileage based user fee.  The legislation now goes to Governor John Kitzhaber, for signature.
 
“This is an important step forward for road use charges,” said Jim Whitty, the head of ODOT’s Office of Innovative Partnerships and Alternative Funding who has led Oregon’s mileage based user fee efforts for a decade. “We hope that successfully implementing a per-mile road use charge will show the public and policymakers that this is the future of transportation finance, both for Oregon and the nation.”
 
Under SB 810, Oregon will build a mileage based user fee system that will allow participants to choose from a number of methods of collecting data on miles driven and paying fees, including means that do not require GPS systems. Although the system will be voluntary, it is permanent and not a temporary pilot program. The system will be flexible and scalable, allowing other states to choose to join with Oregon, much as Washington and Nevada participated in a pilot of the system earlier this year. It will also allow for expansion of the system in the future beyond the initial volunteers as the Legislature deems necessary. Over the next two years, ODOT will build the system, with the program going into effect July 1, 2015.
 
With vehicles becoming increasingly fuel efficient due to new federal vehicle efficiency standards and high gas prices, the ability of the gas tax to provide adequate transportation funding will be severely compromised. A number of blue ribbon commissions have recognized the need to replace the gas tax with a mileage based user fee, including the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission and the National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission, both of which were created by Congress.
SB 810 advances the cause for mileage based user fees in several important ways.
  • This bill endorses Oregon’s current approach to a per-mile road use charge collection and embraces this next step toward mandatory application at a later date. 
  • It will put the necessary statutory infrastructure in place for the per-mile charge including a tax rate, tax collection provisions including constraints on how miles are reported, open system requirements, and protection of personally identifiable information.
  • It provides that ODOT may enter into agreements with other states and Canadian provinces to conduct joint research on road use charge systems and stakeholder outreach and engage in multi-state road use charge pilot programs.
  • It addresses concerns over privacy by requiring that ODOT make available options that don’t track vehicle location and limits the use of location data—including requiring that it be erased after 30 days.

For more information on Oregon’s mileage based user fee, visit the Oregon Road User Charge Program webpage or read recent stories from ODOT’s Stakeholder Update: