Ross: Will a Road Usage Charge replace gas tax?

Feb 21, 2023, 9:22 AM | Updated: 9:36 am
Seattle Traffic...
A long backup on I-5 in Seattle. (WSDOT/Twitter)

Today in Olympia, the House Transportation Committee holds a hearing on House Bill 1832, which sets up a voluntary program to test the practicality of a Road Usage Charge to replace the gas tax.

And there are people determined to kill it any way they can.

Here’s an email that was sent to members of the transportation committee – it reads:

“it has been decided” – doesn’t say who did the deciding – “it has been decided that several dozen citizens will soon physically follow you, [and] your staff members …everywhere throughout the state capitol buildings including your offices… We own where you tread….But we promise in the spirit of the text of the bill to safeguard your privacy, not to follow you into the stalls. We’ll just wait for you right outside. We also promise to be polite and cordial.”

The writer is trying to make the point that the Road Usage Charge is a thinly-disguised government surveillance program because some versions would use GPS tracking.

The writer proposes instead that electric cars pay a tax at charging stations.

Pay up! Unpaid parking, traffic tickets being collected

The only problem there is that most electric vehicles are charged up at home.

This all reminds me of the original $30 tab campaign way back in 1999 – which cut so much money from the highway budget we’re still dealing with the maintenance backlog.

The problem is that roads here are very expensive, but drivers still want more of them.

The total cost of the 520 project alone will be $5.1 billion! Assuming that estimate holds – a big assumption – that’s about $1,000 for every man, woman, and child in the Puget Sound region JUST for that project! I say we all send in our checks this afternoon and get it paid for – anybody with me?


I remember many years ago calculating that it would be cheaper just to pay Eastside commuters to move to Seattle than build the new I-90 bridge. But no one seemed to like that idea.

We like to drive!

So if you don’t like the road usage charge – find a better way to raise the money, a cheaper way to build AND maintain roads, or, move to a neighborhood where you can walk to work.  

Or pray for another pandemic, and then we could just let the roads fall apart.

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News with Dave Ross and Colleen O’Brien weekday mornings from 5 – 9 a.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Ross: Will a Road Usage Charge replace gas tax?