Officials of the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) have embarked on a state “listening tour” to hear comments and questions from residents, motorists, local officials, and other key stakeholders before rolling out the new program in which volunteer drivers would pay a 1.5 cent per mile driving tax.
ODOT is seeking 5,000 drivers to volunteer for the program, slated to start July 1, 2015. The program, the first of its kind in the nation, is a dry run for a “Vehicle Miles Travelled” (VMT) fee that might someday serve as the primary means of financing highway and bridge projects. VMT fees, which would charge people for each mile they drive, are seen as one possible way to raise the money needed to keep the nation’s infrastructure from falling into disrepair.
There has been growing concern that traditional federal and state gas taxes will soon be unable to keep up with the rising costs of maintaining, repairing and building highways and bridges. The idea of raising state gas taxes has so far been a non-starter in most states. It’s been more than two decades since Congress increased the federal 18.4 cent per gallon gas tax.
In 2013, Oregon’s legislature approved legislation allowing ODOT to establish a pilot volunteer VMT program. Volunteer drivers will be able use a variety of methods to track their mileage, including a GPS tracker, a device on their odometers, or a daily diary. Volunteers will be billed monthly, and receive rebate checks to recoup the money they spent on Oregon’s 30 cent per gallon gas tax.