New pay-by-mile analysis shows it would be more fair than the gas tax

SEATTLE — A new analysis for the Washington State Transportation Commission shows a pay-by-mile road usage charge would be more fair than the current gas taxes that pay for roads.

The consultant's analysis presented Tuesday compared a 2016 Toyota Prius C, a 2010 Ford Focus, a 2010 Ford Fusion and a 2007 Ford F-150, all driving 10,000 miles per year.

The Prius driver would pay $100 in annual gas taxes, the pickup owner more than $300.

Under a 2.5 cent per mile road usage charge, all four drivers of the vehicles would each pay $250.

"If you drive a highly fuel efficient car or a car that's not very fuel efficient it won't matter under a road usage charging program, everybody would essentially pay the same rate for the use of the road," said Reema Griffith, the commission's executive director.

On Tuesday, the commission recommended the Legislature put $600,000 toward a test of a road usage charge in 2017.

Oregon is the first state testing pay-by-mile.

Private companies use GPS to track the miles volunteers drive on Oregon roads.

Drivers pay 1.5 cents per mile and get a refund of their gas taxes.

"If I'm driving my pickup around I'm going to pay less than I would at the gas pump," said Tom Fuller of the Oregon Department of Transportation, who was participating in the test. "If I'm driving my Prius around I'm going to pay a little bit more."

Since electric vehicle owners don't pay gas taxes, they now pay a flat $100 annual fee in Washington.

Next year, the fee rises to $150 and will begin applying to plug-in hybrids.