This weekend the Oregon State Legislature overwhelmingly passed Senate Bill 810, the first-ever legislation passed in the United States to establish a road usage charge system for transportation funding, drawing praise from the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association (IBTTA), the worldwide association representing toll facility owners and operators and the businesses that serve them. Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber, a strong supporter of the legislation, is expected to sign the bill into law in the coming days.
Patrick D. Jones, IBTTA’s executive director and CEO, called the bill’s passage, “a major victory for alternative forms of transportation funding across the country at both the state and federal level. By the passage of this historic legislation paving the way for a voluntary road usage charge (RUC) system, Oregon has lived up to its pioneer history and established a new frontier in transportation funding. This example gives momentum to the need for exploring alternative funding options, such that tolling provides, in addressing our national transportation infrastructure challenges.”
SB810 authorizes the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) to assess a charge of 1.5 cents per mile for up to 5,000 cars and light commercial vehicles and issue an equivalent gas tax refund to users. The bill calls for the system to be operational by July 1, 2015.
Mileage-based user fees (MBUF) -– or road usage charges (RUC) -- are an alternative way to fund the construction and maintenance of roads. Rather than the current gas tax method, which is based on the amount of fuel purchased at the pump, a vehicle mileage fee or road usage charge is based on how many miles are driven.
Since 2000, gas tax revenues have declined significantly as a result of less driving, increased fuel efficiency and decreasing purchasing power. As gas tax revenues dwindle, federal policymakers in the U.S. have had to divert $55 billion from the federal government’s general fund and other non-transportation funds to pay for infrastructure. This is increasing pressure on transportation policy makers across the country to search for new, viable road financing options.