Oregon looks beyond gas tax as mileage-based tax evolves

At all levels of government, transportation officials are running scared due to a severe lack of funding available to maintain and improve our roads. The major reason for all this anxiety is the failure of the gas tax to evolve with the times. Truly a “dinosaur” of a funding mechanism, the gas tax hasn’t kept up with inflation, and it is dwindling as Americans drive fewer miles and cars become more fuel-efficient (and electrified in some cases).

While it’s widely accepted we must move beyond the gas tax; no one has figured out a way to do it. Until now.

It turns out the State of Oregon has been working on this for over a decade and they’re on the verge of some major breakthroughs that could lead to implementation of a mileage-based tax system by 2014.

Jim Whitty has managed Oregon’s Road User Fee Pilot Program since it was passed into law by the Oregon legislature in 2001. The project is independent of, but staffed and funded by ODOT, with a mission to figure out how to replace the gas tax. After 16 months of research, Whitty and his colleagues determined that a mileage-based fee, or vehicle-miles traveled (VMT) tax, was the direction to go.

Given all the recent headlines about funding, I recently called Whitty to learn more about what they’ve been up to.