Washington State Transportation Commission adopts recommendations on pay per mile

Dec 17, 2019, 4:57 PM | Updated: 5:14 pm
pay per mile, road usage charge, seattle traffic, memorial day 2019, Labor Day...
(AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)
(AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)

In an effort to move away from a state gas tax, the Washington State Transportation Commission on Tuesday adopted recommendations for a road usage charge or pay-per-mile system.

Dori: Pay-per-mile tax the fight of our financial lives

Tuesday’s action doesn’t mean they’ll be implemented. The commission will send off its recommendations to the state Legislature, Governor Jay Inslee, and the Federal Highway Administration by Jan. 13.

While there is no timeline for a transition, the commission recommended that it shouldn’t occur for at least 10 years and “likely several decades as many cars continue to pay the gas tax,” according to a news release.

It was also recommended that cars that don’t rely on gas, such as plugin cars and hybrid-electric cars, be some of the first to undergo the transition to pay per mile. In addition, state owned fleets should be some of the first to pay a road usage charge in lieu of a gas tax.

“Revenues from our state gas tax will begin to decline as vehicle fuel efficiency continues to increase,” said Jerry Litt, chair of the Washington State Transportation Commission. “We are already struggling to ensure adequate funding to maintain our system of roads and bridges today.”

The Legislature directed the commission in 2012 to research a potential road usage charge to replace the gas tax. Most recently, the commission launched a 12-month pilot program to gain participant feedback. It can be found in the Steering Committee Final Report of Findings.

The October draft of recommendations are as follows:

1) Recommend implementation options that allow RUC to gradually scale up, offering drivers an opportunity to try the system and recommend further improvements while RUC is still in an early-implementation stage.
2) Recommend that additional research be conducted (alone or in collaboration with other states) on differential RUC rates based on driver, vehicle, or infrastructure characteristics.
3) Recommend research be conducted in collaboration with other states that are implementing RUC to better
understand compliance gaps and potential enforcement measures.
4) Recommend additional time and appropriate testing grounds (i.e., limited number of vehicles) to improve RUC before pursuing any wider statewide implementation.
5) Recommend that in an initial start-up stage of RUC, compliance and enforcement mechanisms must be tested and developed.
6) Recommend that existing delivery mechanisms (e.g., public-private partnerships) be considered to most efficiently develop a RUC system that reduces the cost of collections.
7) Recommend that cost reduction strategies be tested on a limited set of vehicles in an initial start-up stage of RUC.
8) Recommend that border-area testing be conducted in an initial start-up stage of RUC.
9) Recommend that ODOT’s OReGO program be engaged to further explore bi-state RUC solutions for frequent WA-OR travelers.
10) Recommend specific changes in Washington statutes that protect personal privacy in a RUC program.
11) Recommend testing of new personal privacy protections during an initial start-up stage of RUC.
12) Recommend that state agency vehicles be utilized as test subjects for privacy protection testing.
13) Recommend that during a transitional period while the gas tax remains in place, the same policy-setting and oversight roles between the Legislature, WSTC, and other agencies and the private sector should be retained.
14) Recommend alternative RUC transition scenarios for legislative consideration in 2020 that specifically consider:
• Participants’ preferences for implementation time frame and vehicles subject to RUC;
• Advent of electric and high MPG vehicles, their effects on revenue, and current programs to incentivize adoption;
• The need for continued development and testing of a RUC system before any wide-scale implementation;
• Forward Drive project timing (potential federal grant), which is aimed at reducing the cost of collections for RUC; and
• The availability of state fleet vehicles as part of an initial start-up stage for RUC.
15) Expenditures of RUC revenue should be made subject to Amendment 18 (restricted to highway purposes)

A 29-member Road Usage Charge Steering Committee comprises of (July 2019):
Joe Tortorelli, WSTC Commissioner
Hester Serebrin, WSTC Commissioner
Roy Jennings, WSTC Commissioner
Rep. Jake Fey, Tacoma (D) 27th District
Sen. Steve Hobbs, Lake Stevens (D) 44th District
Sen. Curtis King, Yakima (R) 14th District
Rep. Andrew Barkis, Olympia (R) 2nd District
Rep. Ed Orcutt, Kalama (R) 20th District
Sen. Rebecca Saldaña, Seattle (D) 37th District
Sen. Phil Fortunato, Auburn (R) 31st District
Rep. Bill Ramos, Issaquah (D) 5th District
Jason Richter, State Deputy Treasurer
Curt Augustine, Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers
David Burnett, Chehalis Tribe
Chris Herman, Washington Public Ports Association
Tom Hingson, Everett Transit
Rick Olson, Puget Sound Regional Council
Meg McCann, Department of Licensing
John Koster, CRAB, Executive Director
Mayor Mary Lou Pauly, City of Issaquah
Sharon Nelson, Consumer Representative
Janet Ray, AAA Washington
Tom Walrath, Owner, T.E. Trucking, Inc.
Neil Strege, Washington Roundtable
Ted Trepanier, INRIX
Doug Vaughn, WSDOT
Bryce Yadon, Futurewise
Brian Ziegler, Freight Mobility Strategic Investment Board

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Washington State Transportation Commission adopts recommendations on pay per mile