Task Force recommends expansion of Oregon’s road user charging program

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Oregon’s Road User Fee Task Force (RUFTF) has recommended a model for expanding the state’s road user charging program, OReGO, which would implement a per-mile fee for all new vehicles rated at 20mpg (14.12 l/100km) or better, beginning in 2025.

The RUFTF recommendation for statewide per-mile charging could generate an additional US$88m in transportation funding by the year 2040, and will now go to the Oregon legislature for consideration in the upcoming legislative session. The model was one of six options the Task Force considered. Each option varied the minimum mpg and the year in which to begin accepting vehicles into the program. RUFTF’s recommendation was informed by the Oregon Department of Transportation’s (ODOT) projection that, by 2020, fuel tax revenue will ‘decline due to increased vehicle fuel efficiency’, and that ‘increased fuel efficiency will continue to reduce fuel tax revenue every year into the future’. Although Oregon fuel tax revenue has grown in 2016, the report projects that growth to slow in 2017, and ultimately become negative in 2020.

Fuel tax generates 40% of the State Highway Fund, providing local governments and ODOT with about US$530m this year in funding for roads and bridges. The federal fuel tax is the largest source of federal transportation funds, which provide more than US$600m each year for Oregon roads and transit. Fuel efficiency of light vehicles increased 1.5% in Oregon last year; it has increased 7.5% since 2008, and is projected to continue increasing as federal Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards target an average of 54.5mpg for all new vehicles in 2025.

The Oregon Legislature first authorized investigation of alternatives to the fuel tax in 2001, when it created RUFTF. After 12 years of research and two pilot programs, the task force helped pass Senate Bill 810 (2013), the first legislation in the USA to establish a fully operational road usage charge system. The OReGO program was launched July 1, 2015. ODOT reports that the system technology is working well, more than 1,200 vehicles have enrolled and volunteer retention is at 75%. When asked about their experience, 93% of participants reported it was excellent, good or okay.

“I am thrilled to have this recommendation come out of the task force,” said RUFTF chair, Vicki Berger. “Road usage charging is the future of transportation funding. It is forward thinking and forward looking. It’s important that transportation funding move forward, and that the OReGO program be part of that discussion, in the next legislative session.”

Travis Brouwer, assistant director of ODOT, commented, “Vehicle technology has developed to the point where you now have one driver on the road paying very little for its upkeep, and another driving the same miles paying much more, just because the vehicle has a different mpg rating. If a driver’s use of the road is no longer dependent on the purchase of fuel, the condition of Oregon’s roads and bridges shouldn’t be either. Charging a per-mile fee would ensure transportation funding does not decline due to increased fuel efficiency.”

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International magazine and the Traffic Technology Today website since he joined the company in May 2014. Prior to this he worked on some of the UK's leading consumer magazine titles including Men's Health and Glamour, beginning his career in journalism in 1997 after graduating with a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).

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