AASHTO Journal, 6 February 2015
The Oregon Department of Transportation has already activated a website to help prepare for the July launch of its first-in-the-nation major program to assess road user charges based on vehicle miles traveled.
Called OReGO, the program aims to sign up to 5,000 volunteers by July 1 who will pay 1.5 cents a mile for their road system usage and receive a monthly bill that also rebates them for fuel taxes they pay at the gas pump.
The myorego.org site gives some history of Oregon’s role in innovative financing policy, including that it was the first state to enact a fuel tax when its legislature in 1919 voted for one to require roadway users to pay for construction and maintenance costs.
In recent years, however, as vehicles became more fuel efficient and road costs were outpacing traditional fuel taxes, Oregon began considering other financing options. ODOT ran a pilot program of 88 volunteers in 2012-13 to test how to track their miles for a road usage charge. The legislature in 2013 established a mileage-based revenue program for light trucks and passenger cars that is about ready to begin.
In this year’s initial phase at least, there will be no charges for riders of bicycles or motorcycles. Volunteers will have a choice of mileage monitoring devices and reporting options provided through private firms, both with and without using a satellite-linked tracking system. The program description also says “volunteers’ personal information will be kept secure and private.”
OReGO has also published a few personal stories on how it works from volunteers in the earlier small test phase, along with pictures of the people who tell their stories.
And the site’s section for frequently asked questions says Oregon might not be alone very long in the mileage-based user fee system.
“California recently passed a bill authorizing its own road usage charge demonstration program,” it says, and “Washington state is studying and testing concepts similar to Oregon’s program.”
It notes that Oregon is also a member of the Western Road Usage Charge Consortium, “an 11-state research collective examining a per-mile or road usage charging as a regional policy in the West.”
And outside that region, “Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Maine, Delaware and Florida are studying or investigating per-mile charging for roads.”