Oregon awarded USDOT grants to expand RUC program and trial bi-state system

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The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) has been awarded two US Department of Transportation (USDOT) grants to enhance its premier road usage charge (RUC) system and trial an interoperable regional system with California.

USDOT has awarded Oregon a grant of US$2.3m to enhance the state’s existing OReGO RUC program, as well as a US$2.6m grant to implement a joint project with California that will integrate the states’ road charging programs. Both grants will help expand ODOT’s understanding of the technology used in the OReGO program and its ability to support local, state, regional and even national transportation funding needs.

ODOT successfully launched OReGO in July 2015, with the fully operational system still functioning effectively with 1,404 vehicles enrolled to date. In creating the program, ODOT was authorized to assess and collect a charge of 1.5 cents per mile for up to 5,000 vehicles, with volunteer drivers receiving a fuels tax credit while enrolled.

The first USDOT grant will support testing of three options for adapting road charging to local jurisdictions. In most states, counties and cities levy a local-option fuels tax, which is then remitted back to the local government for its use. While OReGO demonstrates that RUC works for the state, it remains unproven at the local level, so better understanding of its technological capabilities may provide local jurisdictions with alternative funding options.

ODOT will examine three local RUC options with up to 500 volunteer participants in each. Each option will explore technical feasibility of various local per-mile scenarios such as: geo-fencing a city or county for additional per-mile rates during specific travel times; and, incentivizing freeway corridors during certain times of day for longer through trips. The test scenarios will launch in 2019 in the Portland metropolitan area and run concurrently for one year.

With the second grant, RUC West, a consortium of 14 western states, will demonstrate a regional system between member states Oregon and California, creating a platform that other states may join as they become ready. The demonstration will provide a starting point for potential future nationwide adoption and implementation. The pilot is expected to go live with volunteer drivers in 2019.

California’s RUC program launched in July 2016 and concluded in March 2017. Testing interoperability of the two inaugural systems is the next step in developing RUC as a viable transportation funding alternative across the country. A successful regional pilot will demonstrate that the program, in context of a coordinated RUC system, can accommodate other states’ requirements, processes, systems, rates and laws.

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International magazine and the Traffic Technology Today website since May 2014. During his time at the title he has interviewed some of the top transportation chiefs in charge of public agencies around the world as well as chairmen and CEOs of multinational transportation technology corporations. Tom's early career saw him working on some the UK's leading consumer magazine titles. He has a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).

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