• State takes first step toward pay-by-mile road tax

    By: Graham Johnson

    Updated:

    OLYMPIA, Wash. - The state took the first step Tuesday toward eventually replacing the gas tax with a tax drivers pay based on the miles they drive.

    The Washington State Transportation Commission recommended the Legislature authorize a pilot program in the next couple of years for what's called a road usage charge.

    As vehicles become more fuel-efficient, the state is looking for new ways to fund roads.

    "Our gas tax as a revenue source is wearing out, it's running out of gas basically," said commissioner and former Seattle Mayor Charles Royer.

    Consultants found a per-mile fee of 1.9 cents could generate up to 57 percent more revenue than a gas tax.

    The idea under consideration would allow drivers to choose one of four options.

    A flat fee could get a driver unlimited miles during a month or year.

    The state could read a driver's odometer when license tabs are renewed.
    A GPS device could record the miles driven to exclude private roads and out of state travel.

    Or a smartphone app connected to a car's Bluetooth network could record mileage and report it to the state.

    "Kind of an invasion of privacy when you're talking GPS," said driver Malcolm Sanborn of Olympia. "That's the last thing I would want in my car."

    A pilot project in Oregon raised similar privacy concerns.

    Royer said that is why he would want drivers to be able to choose a collection system that does not involve GPS.

    If the Legislature decides to move forward, rates would likely be set following the conclusion of the test program.


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