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Nation watches as Oregon moves forward with road use charges
A Road Usage Charge Summit hosted by ODOT in November to introduce the state’s new per-mile road use charge was standing room only, with people coming from across the U.S. to learn more—proving that the rest of the nation has definitely taken an interest in the Legislature’s creation of the nation’s first per-mile road use charge.
In the five months since the Legislature acted, James Whitty, head of ODOT’s Office of Innovative Partnerships and the nation’s acknowledged expert in road use charges, has talked to people from a large number of states that are interested in what Oregon is doing. Responding to this interest, ODOT hosted a Road Usage Charge Summit in Portland to share information about the program with other states and with potential vendors and service providers. The summit attracted more than 100 participants from across the country.
ODOT has also created a consortium of western states that will collaborate and conduct research about the feasibility and operation of road use charges.  The members of the Western Road Usage Charge Consortium will work together to set standards, test and research systems in multistate pilot programs, conduct public policy analysis and consider the potential for a regional road usage charge system.  Although none of the other states have authority to actually implement per mile road use charges, many of them are interested in exploring them.
“The level of interest in what we’re doing is surprising,” said Whitty. “Virtually every week we get inquiries from states about how they might follow our lead.”
And the interest extends to the nation’s capital: In September, Whitty briefed members of the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on Oregon’s efforts as part of a roundtable discussion on state solutions for funding transportation. While in Washington, DC, he also briefed staff at the White House Office of Management and Budget, met with members of Congress and staff from a number of congressional committees, and talked to numerous transportation stakeholders who are keenly interested in Oregon’s progress.
“There is a lot of interest in what we’re doing in Washington, DC,” said Whitty. “While we know the federal government isn’t going to follow Oregon’s lead anytime soon, a lot of people do seem interested in having the federal government help the states explore road usage charges under various scenarios to find the best way for them to work.”
The road use charge program created by the Legislature will include up to 5,000 voluntary participants. ODOT will build a system that will allow participants to choose from a number of methods of collecting data on miles driven and paying fees. The program will go into effect July 1, 2015.