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Colorado launches Road Usage Charge Pilot Program

The list of states in the USA investigating alternatives to the gas tax to fund highway improvements has increased, with Colorado launching a trial road usage charge program.

The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) has announced that the Colorado Road Usage Charge Pilot Program (RUCPP) website has launched to test whether road usage charging (RUC) could be feasible and relevant for the state.

In an RUC funding model, instead of paying a tax on how much gas is purchased, drivers pay a fee for how many miles are traveled. CDOT is looking to evaluate more long-term, sustainable transportation-funding alternatives, and in order to know if RUC is viable for Colorado, CDOT plans to test it through a pilot study. This is the first step in the extensive process of evaluating the concept.

CDOT’s RUCPP website explains why the agency is exploring a pay-by-mile charge, provides updates on the status of the pilot, compares a driver’s current gas tax paid with an estimated RUC, and allows citizens to express an interest in being a pilot participant. The pilot will research how a pay-by-mile system compares to current gas tax paid.

Research topics include:
• mileage-reporting technologies along with a manual-reporting option;
• how these technologies work in Colorado's environment;
• the difference between rural and urban drivers, and others.

With this pilot, CDOT will gain real-world experience about road usage charging as a funding alternative. Approximately 100 Colorado drivers will participate in the pilot study, which will begin in late autumn and end in spring 2017. The research team will share its findings later in 2017. CDOT is facing a nearly US$1bn annual funding gap over the next 25 years, and is looking to explore transportation funding alternatives as the gas tax continues to become less reliable over time, due to decreased purchasing power and more fuel efficient and electric vehicles. The pilot is the first step in an extensive process of evaluating the concept alongside other funding alternatives.

“Colorado’s population is expected to nearly double by 2040 to 7.8 million residents, bringing more demands for mobility, and on our transportation infrastructure,” explained CDOT’s executive director, Shailen Bhatt. “A healthy transportation system is the backbone of our state’s economy and way of life. As the state’s transportation funding gap under the current gas tax grows, we need to explore possible funding opportunities, such as road usage charging, to ensure Coloradans the mobility they need to live, work and play.”

Tim Kirby, CDOT’s manager of Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPO) and regional planning section, added, “CDOT is proud to be working with the public, stakeholders, elected officials, and community and transportation leaders on the RUC pilot program. The Colorado Road Usage Charge Pilot Program will engage a diverse group of drivers, from rural to urban, mountains to plains, and cars and trucks to be participants. We look forward to learning from the RUC pilot participants’ experiences to learn more about this potential funding alternative.”

November 15, 2016

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