Oregon will launch nation’s first pay-per-mile road use fee program this summer with 5,000 volunteer motorists.

DALLAS - The Oregon Department of Transportation has selected three vendors that will collect the vehicle data needed to implement the nation's first pay-per-mile road fee usage program.

The 5,000 volunteer motorists selected this summer to participate in the limited rollout will pay 1.5 cents for each mile traveled on Oregon's streets and roads instead of the state tax on gasoline and diesel of 30 cents per gallon. The federal tax of 18.4 cents per gallon of gasoline and 24.4 cents for diesel will remain.

The road fee may one day replace the state gasoline tax, said Jim Whitty, manager of Oregon DOT's Office of Innovative Partnerships and Alternative Funding.

"This is the wave of the future," Whitty said. "We've got to find a more sustainable and fair way to fund highway maintenance and new construction or our economy will suffer as our roads get more crowded and less safe."

Oregon levied the first gasoline tax in the country in 1919, more than 10 years before the first federal gasoline tax, and is now pioneering with its OReGO vehicle-miles-traveled program, Whitty said.

"It's a huge step for Oregon and the nation," he said.

Motorists can choose between data systems offered by Azuga, Sanef, and Verizon Telematics to collect the information and report it to the state. Vehicles equipped with GPS-capable units, which are not required, are not charged for mileage in other states. Participants that opt for the self-reporting non-GPS versions can file for credit for non-Oregon road miles.

The companies will manage the individual accounts and collect road user for deposit into the state highway fund.

The road fee of 1.5 cents, which is specified in the 2013 state law that created the per-mile program, is intended to be revenue neutral. It based on the state tax paid on the fuel used by a vehicle that gets 20 miles per gallon.

Depending on the number of miles driven and the fuel efficiency of their car or light truck, participating motorists will receive either a rebate on the tax paid or a monthly bill for the fee owed.

Vehicles capable of 22 miles per gallon or better are unlikely to qualify for a rebate, said Michelle Godfrey, public information officer for the innovative partnerships office.

The state does not get any tax revenues from gasoline that isn't sold to drivers of hybrid and other fuel-efficient vehicles, Godfrey said

"Every state is dealing with a declining fuels tax and Oregon is the first to actually do something about it," she said.

Every motorist will pay the same user fee for each mile driven with the new system, unlike the gasoline tax that falls heavier on those with less fuel efficient vehicles, Godfrey said.

"The gas tax is becoming more and more unfair because you have some very high fuel-efficient vehicles that aren't using any gas and some that are using a lot more gas," she said. "So there's a big disparity now in who's paying for the roads."

A new nationwide poll released April 29 by the Mineta Transportation Institute found that 71% of voters would pay an additional federal gasoline tax of 10 cents per gallon if the revenues were dedicated to road maintenance. Sixty-five percent of those surveyed said gasoline tax revenues should be used to pay for public transit, said Asha Weinstein Agrawal, director of the survey.

"Significant majorities want the government to provide better transportation infrastructure, are willing to pay for improvements, and want gas tax revenue spent on public transportation as well as on roads and highways," Agrawal said.

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