What is the Road Usage Charge Program?
Oregon’s Senate Bill 810 (2013) was the first legislation in the U.S. to establish a road usage charge system for state transportation funding. It authorizes ODOT to set up a mileage collection system for volunteer motorists beginning July 1, 2015. According to the legislation, ODOT may assess a charge of 1.5 cents per mile for up to 5,000 cars and light-duty commercial vehicles and issue a fuels tax credit to those participants. The volunteer program, called OReGO, is the start of an alternate method of paying for Oregon's roads.
As directed by the legislation, the Road Usage Charge Program gives motorists choices for the technologies they use to report miles driven as well as how they manage and pay their road use charges. They have the opportunity to obtain services through private entities with market-driven options that are efficient and cost-effective.
How does the system work?
First, volunteers choose options for participating in the program, including who will manage their mileage reporting and payment/credit (an account manager). ODOT has contracted with private sector companies to manage accounts, calculate charges plus any credits due, and submit charges to the Oregon Treasury. ODOT will audit account managers and verify that all charges owed are paid.
The road usage charge system automatically collects mileage data from vehicles. A mileage reporting device selected by the motorist interfaces with the vehicle and is paired with software to send mileage totals to the chosen account manager. The on-board mileage reporting device is either “basic” (does not use location-determination technology) or “advanced” (uses location-determination technology).
Why is Oregon implementing the Road Usage Charge Program?
Funding for transportation system maintenance, improvements and construction has been declining in Oregon and around the country since the 1990s. This is due in part to more fuel efficient vehicles purchasing less fuel, thus paying less in fuel taxes—which go toward maintaining and building roads and highways. That’s good news for the environment and for reducing dependence on fossil fuels, but it reduces funds available to maintain Oregon roads. That requires innovative thinking about funding our transportation system; the result is OReGO, a road usage charge program motorists pay in lieu of the fuel tax paid at the pump.
The per-mile charge is not a new concept in Oregon; the legislature first authorized investigation into options to the traditional fuels tax in 2001 when it formed the Road User Fee Task Force. After extensive research and study, Oregon’s Road Usage Charge Program is now operational.