The pay-per-mile experiment begins soon; looking for alternatives/supplements to the gas tax to pay for roads

Volunteers wanted, writes the Yakima Herald-Republic

Drivers are being sought by the state Department of Transportation to test a pilot program that could replace the gas tax.

After announcing the project last year, the department has about half of the 2,000 drivers needed and is seeking another 1,000 in order to get the test underway.

We wrote about the project last September, noting the inevitability of the search for alternatives.

As cars become more fuel efficient, the gas tax becomes less revenue robust.

The News Tribune editorial board endorsed the idea in mid-September, writing,

There are kinks to work out, such as privacy concerns and payment from out-of-state drivers. But it’s vital for Washington to move beyond pilot projects and implement a real road-usage charge as soon as possible.

The Spokesman-Review editorial board now says alternatives to the gas tax are necessary

The gas tax, a once reliable source for new projects and maintenance, is losing its oomph. Traditional vehicles are growing more efficient, and the new-fangled ones don’t even require a trip to the pump.

However, government has already leveraged the gas tax for long-term transportation projects. Those bonds are like a house with a 30-year mortgage. As long as there is a steady income source, they can be paid off. Problem is, that income will dwindle without changes…

The practical answer is to find another funding source to either replace or supplement the gas tax…

A per-mile charge would undoubtedly be controversial, but so are all of the other ways (including car tabs and tolling) the government raises transportation dollars. This pilot project will help the state decide if this is a practical solution.

 

An issue to watch.