Oregon Volunteers Get RUFTF Up

Mileage fee vs. gas tax project begins

SALEM, Ore. -- The Oregon Department of Transportation launches its mileage fee pilot project in the Portland area this week with the recruitment of volunteers for the program. Administered by ODOT's Office of Innovative Partnerships, the mileage fee pilot project will test several key aspects of charging a per-mile fee at the pump in lieu of paying the state gasoline tax.

Volunteers for the one-year pilot will use a mileage-counting device for in-state travel and will need to purchase gasoline at select stations in northeast and southeast Portland.

The mileage fee pilot project is the result of research findings from Oregon's Road User Fee Task Force, or RUFTF, created by the Oregon Legislature in 2001 to investigate new ways of generating revenue for the state's transportation system. Oregon, like many other states and nations, is experiencing a decline in gasoline tax revenue due to increased automobile fuel efficiency. A mileage fee is one proposal for replacing gasoline tax revenues for road maintenance, preservation and construction.

On March 31, a warmup phase will begin with 10 to 20 drivers. During April and May, the remaining 260 vehicles will be equipped with the devices. The goal is to have 280 participants.

The first six months of the pilot will be the control phase. Participants will drive as they normally do and will continue to pay the state gasoline tax at the pump as usual (24 cents per gallon). During this phase, participants will be required to purchase gasoline at the participating Leathers Oil stations at least twice per month.

In October, about the midpoint of the study, the test phase begins and participants will be divided into three groups: a control group, a vehicle mile tax group and a congestion pricing group. The latter two groups will be larger than the control group and will pay a vehicle mile fee. One group will pay a flat rate (1.2 cents per mile), and the other group will pay a varied rate depending on how many miles are driven in the designated rush hour zones. These two groups will not pay the gasoline tax for six months.

One of the key concepts being examined during the test phase is the ability to collect the mileage fee at the pump. When the purchase is totaled, the gasoline tax will be deducted automatically and the road user fee (based on the number of miles driven in state between fillups) will be added automatically.

Each participant's receipt will show this transaction. In addition, all participants will be eligible for additional compensation based on their compliance with predetermined milestones.

Click here to learn more about the program.

The Oregon Legislative Assembly established OIPP in 2003 and charged it with exploring ways to increase the speed in which projects are delivered; enhancing public-private partnerships to develop innovative projects; and accessing new revenues and financing arrangements. All ODOT projects are subject to the state and federal requirements of land use, environmental laws and the transportation planning process.