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State officials to discuss gas tax, congestion tolling, self-driving cars

Will Washington drivers pay a gas tax, or will they to pay per mile? The State Transportation Commission plans to make a recommendation early next week, as well as leading discussions on a variety of other topics.

Still plenty of questions as state mulls replacement for gas tax

As vehicles become more fuel-efficient or drivers switch to electric cars, gas taxes for the state are predicted to drop by nearly half.

The state is consider whether it wants to recoup the money through a road usage charge, recently enlisting the help of 2,000 drivers to test the ‘pay per mile’ system.

This past February, after a year of testing, drivers reported back to the state. Nearly 70 percent reported they liked the idea as much as the gas tax. About 20 percent preferred the gas tax. The rest were uncertain.

Using those results as context, the commission will meet Tuesday, Dec. 17 to decide whether the usage charge is the best way forward. It will then finalize its recommendations, and submit its report to Gov. Jay Inslee, the state Legislature, and the Federal Highway Administration at the start of the new year.

Congestion tolling and self-driving cars

In addition to the road usage charge, the commission will on Tuesday hear findings and recommendations from a consultant tasked with analyzing the possibility of congestion pricing in downtown Seattle.

Why is Uber pushing so hard for congestion tolling in Seattle?

The study was commissioned by Uber, and was designed to determine whether tolling downtown streets in Seattle would act as a feasible replacement for direct taxes, or licensing limitations on rideshare companies.

Also presenting to the commission will be John Niles, the co-author of a book on autonomous vehicles. He will lead a discussion over the concept (and relative safety) of 50 percent or more of privately owned vehicles shifting to fully-automated driving. While no concrete rulings or decisions will be made, it will be a larger part of the commission’s “ongoing examination” of the viability of self-driving cars.

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