State preparing report on road usage charge after a yearlong test

Janet Williams just finished testing the newest concept in transportation funding - paying for every mile we drive, instead of paying a gas tax.

With cars becoming more fuel efficient, the gas tax is becoming a less reliable way to pay for roads.

"I'm sort of an adventurous person and if you have a new idea you want to float, sure," Williams said.

As a participant in a road usage charge pilot program, Williams agreed to let the state track the number of miles she drove on public roads using a GPS unit in her Saturn.

More news from KIRO 7


"I took the little gizmo that goes in the car."

She didn't worry about privacy, but Reema Griffith of the Washington State Transportation Commission says many of the 2,000 participants in the year-long pilot program did have concerns.

About half chose ways of reporting their mileage that didn't involve GPS tracking.

"That tells us a lot and we think that's going to be an important aspect to any policy that might go forward, that consumers are going to have to have a choice, and there have to be a viable ways to do this without GPS," Griffith said.

One option is for drivers to send in a photo of their odometer.

A drawback of not choosing GPS is that drivers might be charged for travel out of state or on private roads.

For most people, the big question is how much they'd pay compared to a gas tax.

"I would come out I would say just about equal," Williams said.

Owners of gas guzzlers often pay less with a road usage charge, while drivers of fuel-efficient cars pay more.

That's what happened to KIRO 7 News producer Katelin Wangberg, who also signed up for the pilot.

She drives a fuel-efficient car, and her final numbers from the test show she would have paid $213 per year with a road usage charge, compared to $148 for gas tax.

The state transportation commission is working on a report and recommendations that will go the Legislature next January.

Lawmakers will decide whether to move forward with a road usage charge.