States Weigh More Road User Fees
California’s Dept. of Transportation is about to start a nine-month pilot mileage-based road-charge program with 5,000 volunteers. The program, slated to kick off in July, reflects increasing efforts to diversify transportation funding across the nation.
“It will be like a utility—you pay according to how much you use the roads,” said Carrie Pourvahidi, road-charge program manager for Caltrans, speaking on a panel at the Women’s Transportation Seminar conference in Austin this month.
A California driver spends about $760 a year on repairs related to poorly performing roads, she added. The state is following the lead of Oregon, which has had an official road-charge program for a year, with some 1,000 participants.
In Pittsburgh, an old transit station became a hub for development thanks to federal grants and partnerships with urban redevelopment authorities and public schools. Panelists discussed alternative funding mechanisms, such as tax- increment financing, new-market tax credits and philanthropic grants.
The federal gasoline tax—once the traditional source for transportation funding—is “like an aging rock star,” said Baruch Feigenbaum, assistant director of transportation policy for the Reason Foundation, citing the metaphor of a longtime act that people have to admit is fading out.
The foundation advocates increasing the $15-billion cap on private activity bonds for projects and creating user fees for electric vehicles, he added.
A task force in the Puget Sound area released a report recommending the creation of a local transportation authority and consideration of funding approaches such as a pay-per-mile program. “Solutions should drive funding, not visa versa,” said Tim Boesch, principal planner with CDM Smith, which assembled the diverse task force.