Nation’s First Mileage-Based User Fee Launches in Oregon

OReGO opens its first phase to 5,000 volunteers

With the highway funding fiasco still ongoing in Washington and more fuel efficient cars on the road, many states have had to get creative with collecting fees to shore up their highway maintenance and construction programs.

Oregon had the same issues with dwindling coffers as other states and decision-makers wanted to create a fair, sustainable source of revenue to fund transportation projects for Oregonians. On July 1, state officials and private partners kicked off Oregon’s new pay-by-the-mile road usage charge program, OReGO.

OReGO participants will pay 1.5 cents per mile while driving in Oregon, and receive a credit on their bill for state gas tax paid at the pump. OReGO is currently limited to 5,000 voluntary vehicles statewide. 

“Oregon is leading the nation to develop a fairer, more sustainable way to fund road maintenance and improvements,” says ODOT Director Matthew Garrett.

Several states — including Washington, California, Idaho and Colorado — are considering similar pay-by-the-mile road usage charge systems. Oregon has already conducted two pilot projects to test road usage charging, which led the 2013 Legislature to create the OReGO program and launch it statewide with up to 5,000 volunteer vehicles starting July 1.

“Oregon and other states know that the gas tax drivers pay at the pump isn’t cutting it anymore,” Garrett says. “As newer cars squeeze more miles out of each gallon of gas, and more hybrid and all-electric vehicles are sold, paying for road use by the mile instead of by the gallon ensures that everyone pays their fair share — no more, no less."

One concern with vehicle miles travelled (VMT) type systems is the lack of privacy. Drivers fear Big Brother will know their every move.

OReGO will provide motorists options and not require the use of GPS.  There’s a non-GPS option which includes a basic mileage reporting device that only reports miles driven and fuel consumption.

Two of OReGO’s account managers will also offer GPS-enabled features that can help drivers save time and money. One, Azuga, will allow drivers to log trips, monitor fuel use and set up GPS-enabled Safe Zones to keep teen drivers safe. It will soon add connected smartphone apps that will help drivers diagnose their check engine light, find their parked car and more.

One thing I know for sure, states can’t wait around for the federal government to get its act together and pass a long-term highway bill. OReGO is one alternative for increasing revenue and it will be interesting to see if the program works as hoped.

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