Mileage-Based User Fee Gains Acceptance Through Education, Study Says

AASHTO Journal, 21 October 2011

DETROIT — The AASHTO Standing Committee on Highways worked through a full agenda of technical reports, proposed policy statements, and subcommittee updates last week during the AASHTO annual meeting in Detroit.The committee also heard the latest research on public acceptance of mileage-based user fees as a method to pay for building and maintaining the nation’s transportation infrastructure.

Paul Hanley, director of Transportation Policy Research at the Public Policy Center of the University of Iowa, gave the standing committee an overview of the preliminary results gathered from a two-year field study completed in August 2010, that shows drivers do not yet support the idea of mileage-based user fee as a funding tool. However, the more exposure a driver has to the idea of a vehicle miles traveled fee (VMT), the more likely the driver is to accept it.

The two major components of the study, titled “A National Evaluation of Mileage-Based Road User Charge,” were to test the “appropriateness” of the technology used in the vehicles and to look at how user-friendly and driver-accepted this method would be. Drivers are currently used to paying money in the form of a fuel tax at the pump to pay for their roads and transportation infrastructure.

More than 2,500 drivers from both urban and rural areas throughout the country were outfitted with the technology to track the number of miles traveled per road/area in order to see how much drivers would be charged should this ever become a revenue-generating reality for the nation.

Initial perception of a VMT by those participating in the study showed a 42% favorable view versus a 17% negative view of a VMT fee. After 10 months of using the technology, however, the favorable view jumped to 70%, versus a 19% negative view. As drivers became more comfortable with the technology and the idea of this user fee, they became more comfortable with the idea of using this fee to replace the gas tax.

Information on this study is available at The full report is expected to be released after review by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

In other business, the Standing Committee on Highways heard reports from its various subcommittees: Bridges and Structures, Construction, Design, Highway Transport, Maintenance, Materials, Right-of-Way and Utilities, Systems Operation and Management, and Traffic Engineering.

Joint committees (Technology Implementation Group, AASHTO/ACEC, and SCOP-Asset Management) then gave activity reports, as did the special committees (NTPEP Oversight Committee, Special Committee on U.S. Route Numbering, and the Special Committee on Wireless Technology).

The Committee forwarded policy resolutions to the AASHTO Board of Directors for final approval, along with one proposed amendment to the AASHTO Governing Documents (see related story).

The Committee also heard reports from NCHRP 20-7, the Special Committee on U.S. Route Numbering, the Technology Implementation Group (TIG), and the AASHTO/ACEC Joint Committee.

Along with Hanley’s, other presentations included:

  • Executive Director’s Report and Update on Reauthorization (John Horsley, AASHTO)
  • FHWA Activities (King Gee, FHWA)
  • Proprietary Products (David Nicol via telephone, FHWA)
  • Standing Committee on Research (SCOR) Update (John Halikowski, AZ)
  • Standing Committee on Environment (SCOE) Update (Matthew Garrett, OR)
  • Climate Change Steering Committee Update (Paula Hammond, WA)
  • Transportation Association Canada, Chief Engineers’ Council Update (Greg Johnson, MI)
  • TRAC Program (Jack Basso, AASHTO)
  • PIARC Update — World Congress (Tony Kane, AASHTO)

More information on AASHTO’s Standing Committee on Highways is available at

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