Oregon considers mileage tracking system for road tax

Oregon considers mileage tracking system for road tax
Photo courtesy Flickr user 37prime

ALBANY, Ore. (AP) — Oregon drivers may someday have a choice in how they pay a road users fee.

A task force within the state Department of Transportation is reviewing mileage-based assessments and looking at electronic systems for measuring and reporting mileage, systems that may already be used by private companies.

The Albany Democrat-Herald reports the task force will invite its own members, Transportation Department employees and perhaps legislators to take part in a pilot study that would allow a driver to pick a mileage system to test.

Driving the issue is a drop in revenue from the state fuel tax, which pays for highway and bridge maintenance. Revenue is falling as fuel efficiency increases and as more people are expected to drive hybrids or electric cars.

The Road User Fee Task Force in 2006 looked at a GPS-based system that could track the number of miles a vehicle was driven. However, fearing their whereabouts could be tracked, drivers strongly opposed the system. The idea is now dead, said Jim Whitty, director of the task force.

"We have completely changed the approach," Whitty said. "We're moving away from a mandate for a government box in your car, and from GPS."

The group is instead reviewing various electronic systems that already measure and report mileage.

"What we've done is taken a hard look at what we need," Whitty said. "And also that the public needs to accept it."

The ODOT, he said, could designate several methods to keep track of mileage and allow drivers to choose one, such as a system used by an insurance company that bases fees on how far customers drive,

The pilot project will test and demonstrate various reporting methods. One cellphone application shows only in-state mileage so motorists using it would not be charged for travel elsewhere.

A flat yearly tax would be another choice.

Transportation officials plan to approach the 2013 legislature with a bill authorizing a mileage tax for vehicles that don't pay gas tax.

The state may also someday propose a mileage-based system for all vehicles, not just hybrids and electric cars.

Information from: Albany Democrat-Herald