AASHTO Journal, 4 May 2012
The potential implementation of mileage-based user fees as one solution to the nation’s surface transportation funding problems could pose major technological, administrative, financial, and political challenges but would not be out of the question, concludes a report prepared for the I-95 Corridor Coalition under the direction of its Policy and Strategic Planning Committee.
The report provides a case study of the operating environments and conditions in Delaware, Maryland, and Pennsylvania and addresses the extent to which the current administrative functions and configurations within those states might facilitate a possible transition from the existing highway financing structure to what would be required for a mileage-based user fee system to take effect.
As the report outlines, the transition period during which a state adopts a user fee system would be lengthy. “However, it is important from the outset to keep a long-range vision in view as technology evolves and initial administrative, institutional, and legal changes are made to implement (a mileage-based) system,” the report states.
Widespread public education efforts on mileage-based user fees are vital for these states in order to help the public understand how the funding system would work. Also, it would help to curb questions on complexity of this user fee by comparing it to another program already well-established (E-ZPass electronic tolling, for example).
In order to see how the program would work over a broader and longer-term period, the report suggested a large-scale pilot program that involves several adjacent states and thousands of participants. Federal assistance, however, would be necessary to adequately fund that type of project and also help set standards for equipment to record and report on mileage.
“States should not wait until a (mileage-based user fee) system is ready for large-scale implementation to address immediate surface transportation revenue needs,” the report states. “But while they look to other solutions for short-term revenue enhancements, they still can be exploring issues regarding implementation of (mileage-based user fee) systems in the intermediate to long term.”
The 113-page report, “Concept of Operations for the Administration of Mileage-Based User Fees in a Multi-state Environment,” is available at bit.ly/MBUF-Report.