A new pilot project by the Washington State Transportation Commission is recruiting participants to explore a new sustainable funding source to maintain and adequately grow our transportation system.
Currently, the transportation system in Washington is funded primarily by the gas tax, plus a combination of sales taxes, tolls, motor vehicle fees, ferry revenues, state grants, and federal funding. This funding mix, however, is no longer adequate to maintain and grow our transportation system. The Puget Sound Regional Council’s (PSRC) Transportation 2040 Plan anticipates that we will need a total of $173.6 billion in additional investment between now and 2040 to maintain and adequately grow our transportation system in the Puget Sound area alone. According to PSRC, existing funding sources and revenue authority can only generate $111 billion, leaving a $62.4 billion budget shortfall.
A key component of the shortfall stems from the gas tax as the main source of funding for transportation projects, with the exception of transit projects, which are predominately funded by sales tax. In the past, the gas tax has been a fairly reliable funding source that steadily grew with in parallel with vehicle use. However, due to impacts from inflation, a projected decrease in vehicle miles traveled per person, and an increase in fuel-efficient vehicles, the gas tax can’t generate the revenue that it used to.
To address this shortfall in transportation funding, in the 2012 WA legislative session, legislators appropriated $1 million dollars for the Washington State Department of Transportation and the Washington State Transportation Commission to work with a 20-member Steering Committee to both determine the feasibility of transitioning from the gas tax to a pay-per-mile (also known as Road Usage Charge, or RUC) system and assess the operational feasibility of such a system. The pilot program is now recruiting 2,000 participants as they test pay-per-mile tax collection methods, where drivers would be charged for the use (and subsequent wear and tear) of the roads, as opposed to paying by the gallon of gas. You can sign up here to be considered.
To get a deep dive in pay-as-you-drive programs, check out these previous Choice Words blog posts: