State kicks off test of pay-by-mile program

The state formally kicked off a yearlong test of a road-usage charge, which might someday replace the gas tax as a way to pay for roads.

KIRO 7 producer Katelin Wangberg signed up to join the pilot project, and is one of 2,000 drivers now reporting their mileage.

Wangberg chose a device that plugs into her car.

"It's a little thing, you plug it in and you forget about it and it tracks everything," Wangberg said.
Using GPS, it records everywhere she drives.

"I'll be honest, I didn't really care" about the tracking, Wangberg said.

People more concerned about privacy can choose a reporting method without GPS and log odometer readings in person or by smart phone.

Officials said the gas is becoming less reliable for funding roads as cars grow more efficient.

"It is time for a change, we actually have a flattening of the gas tax revenue," said State Rep. Judy Clibborn (D-Mercer Island).

A road usage charge has skeptics, like State Rep. Ed Orcutt (R-Kalama), who is from a rural area where people need to drive long distances.

"I'm concerned about this approach, I'm concerned about the impact on my constituents," he said.
Katelin Wangberg has a small, fuel-efficient car.

For the first 462 miles of the test, the app she's using calculated a road-usage charge of about two cents a mile would have cost her $11.03, compared to the $7.74 she's now paying in gas taxes.
"I did not expect that I would be paying more for the road tax than I would be paying for the gas tax," Wangberg said.

Consultants running the test program say the average car in Washington gets 22 miles per gallon, and that drivers who get better mileage would pay more under a road-usage charge.

After the test, a report will go to lawmakers in 2020, who will decide whether to actually implement a pay-by-mile system.

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