Erica Terrini

Oregon congressman proposes support for a road usage charge for transportation funding

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) introduced legislation to encourage states to explore a road usage charge to help fund transportation projects.

The bill submitted on Tuesday by the state’s 3rd District representative would reauthorize the Surface Transportation Systems Funding Alternatives (STSFA) program through 2025 and increase funding authorization, improve reporting requirements and provide special consideration for new projects that advance the knowledge of funding alternatives or collect revenue, according to the congressman’s office.

Blumenauer says the current federal gas tax is insufficient to cover funding needed for road projects and that the concept of a road usage charge received positive response in two studies conducted in 2005.

A road usage charge is calculated on a driver’s vehicle miles traveled.

Several transportation groups including AASHTO, American Highway Users Alliance, American Planning Association, American Public Works Association (APWA), American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA), American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), American Traffic Safety Services Association (ATSSA), Association of Commuter Transportation (ACT), International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE), Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA), and the National Association of Counties (NACo) support Blumenauer’s bill, which was submitted as the Road User Charge Advancement Act of 2019.

“Lifesaving roadway safety infrastructure projects, which are deployed in every congressional district across the country, are dependent on a robust user-fee supported Highway Trust Fund,” said ATSSA Vice President of Government Relations Nate Smith. “Congressman Blumenauer’s bill to further pilot a road usage charge funding mechanism will help ensure that ATSSA members and state departments of transportation can continue to install these countermeasures, which will save the lives of Americans in every community.”

During recent years, 10 states have run or are running pilot projects to test the idea of a road usage charge, according to Blumenauer’s office. California, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, Oregon, Washington and Utah have participated as part of the STSFA program, which was authorized in the FAST Act. It provides $10 million to $15 million annually to test the program’s feasibility and user acceptance, according to Blumenauer’s office.

Blumenauer notes that the federal gas tax has remained unchanged since 1993 and that inflation and increased fuel efficiency of vehicles make it unable to produce sufficient funds for transportation needs. He suggests that without new revenue or an increase from existing funding sources, the Highway Trust Fund will have a $170 billion shortfall in a decade.

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