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It’s only been a year since
we last wrote about Road Usage Charge (RUC), but already two legislative sessions have passed without meaningful action by the legislature. In the next year, however, we may see a renewed opportunity to move forward a new progressive user fee that could be used for multimodal transportation. Read on to learn more about the history of the Road Usage Charge, and the opportunities ahead. 

Policy refresh: What is a RUC?

A RUC is an innovative way to capture the true cost of driving and generate transportation revenue that charges people by the miles they drive rather than by gallons of gas purchased. We’re urging legislators to design and implement any new RUC policy not as a narrow replacement for the gas tax, but as a means to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution while building an equitable transportation system that benefits health, safety, mobility, and access to opportunity for all. 

That means passing a RUC that funds the transportation system we need rather than restricts spending to highways only. We’ll also push to create a more equitable funding system by setting a progressive rate structure and ensuring implementation considers the needs of overburdened communities and vulnerable populations.

We remain committed to our policy values and the promise that RUC brings, which is why it’s been one of our top six priorities in 2023 and beyond. 

A short history of the RUC

Creating a brand new transportation funding source is complicated, and often controversial. Figuring out the details of a new policy can take years, and getting the public to see the need, accept a new way of generating revenue, and understand the logistics is tough work. 

To the public, a new policy like this may feel sudden, but what Washingtonians may not know is that a RUC has been under study here for more than a decade!

Years ago, federal and local transportation leaders recognized that the gas tax, which makes up a majority of the transportation funding in Washington, may no longer be able to meet transportation funding needs because it continues to generate less revenue as cars become more fuel-efficient. 

A RUC would provide funding for critical transportation infrastructure without depending on the continued use of fossil fuels. Eventually, policymakers thought Washington could replace a tax based on the number of gallons of gas consumed with one based on the number of miles driven.

Commission study

In 2012, the Legislature directed the Washington State Transportation Commission (WSTC or the Commission) to research a RUC as a possible replacement for state fuel taxes. Since then, the Commission has convened a legislative and stakeholder Steering Committee of 30 members, determined the feasibility of a RUC, conducted a business case analysis, developed operational concepts, and tested those concepts in a 2,000-vehicle, statewide, year-long pilot project from 2018-2019. At the conclusion of 2019, they issued the  Washington Road Usage Charge Assessment Final Report, and 16 recommendations were provided to the Legislature on how to advance a RUC in Washington. 

In 2022, the Commission issued another report providing nine additional recommendations, and in 2024 they issued their most recent report, Forward Drive, which focused on specific RUC implementation issues and considerations, including innovation, cost-effectiveness, and equity. 

While the Commission has an important role in exploring and grappling with knotty logistics, public concerns, and legal considerations, they’ve unfortunately continually asserted policy positions that keep us locked into a car-centric transportation funding model. In their initial recommendations, they asserted that “expenditures of RUC revenue should be made subject to the 18th Amendment of the Washington State Constitution (restricted to highway purposes)”, going against not only TCC’s policy priorities, but state transportation goals of safety, stewardship, mobility, and the environment. Outdated institutional thinking like this is one of the reasons that the legislature needs to hear from partners and advocates like you. 

Legislative actions

Legislative action on RUC has come in fits and starts. It seems as though there hasn’t been enough political momentum or pressure to move things forward. Between the two chambers and the governor’s office, not everyone is bought in. While very few concrete policy steps have been taken, that hasn’t stopped some legislators from trying: In the past three sessions, there have been several notable efforts to advance a RUC:


  • SB 5444 was related to implementing a per-mile charge on certain electric and hybrid vehicles beginning July 2026. The revenues raised would have gone to the roads’ maintenance and preservation. The bill did not pass.


  • HB 2026, “Implementing a per mile charge on vehicles,” would have adopted a RUC that included two of our highest policy priorities: flexible funding and a progressive rate structure. The bill did not pass.


  • The 2023-25 Transportation Budget (p. 47) included $150,000 for the Department of Licensing with the WSTC to conduct a study on the feasibility of implementing and administering a per-mile fee program. Unfortunately, the governor vetoed this item of the budget. 
  • Representative Fey and other leaders introduced a bill (HB 1832) that would have established a voluntary RUC Program, which placed a 2.5 cent per mile fee on motor vehicle usage of public roadways in the state. The policy as written had some pros and some cons – you can read some of our initial analysis here. The bill did not pass. 
  • Senator Fortunato introduced a bill (SJR 8200) that sought to codify the exact policy we’re trying to avoid: Amending the state Constitution so that state revenue collected from a road usage charge, vehicle miles traveled fee, or other similar type of comparable charge, must be used exclusively for highway purposes. Luckily, this did not pass. 


  • In this most recent session, legislators sought to maintain some momentum for a RUC by passing a 2023-25 Supplemental Transportation Budget (p. 28) that included $250,000 for the Commission to carry out engagement with Washington stakeholders on the Forward Drive research program to inform next steps on a RUC. If signed by Governor Inslee, the Commission must submit a report to the legislature by December 1, 2024. 

More on the history of Washington’s RUC can be found here: Summary Road Usage Charge Fact Sheet: Washington 

A changing landscape

What’s different about the upcoming 2025 session? First, Washington will have a new governor. We’re not sure what the new governor’s position will be on a RUC, but it will be a great opportunity to educate them on the possibilities and opportunities.

Second, 100% of Washington House seats, and half of the Senate will be up for reelection in 2024, meaning we could be starting the 2025 session with a very different roster of legislators — hopefully future champions of RUC!

Third, there are rumors that the legislature may tackle passing a new transportation funding package in 2025. Increasing costs, and vast transportation needs across the state mean that legislators may try to identify new funding sources for a slate of increased multimodal and other investments. It’s the perfect time to pass a policy that could create the long-term funding for multimodal investments that we need. 

What’s next for TCC?

All this change means we have a lot of education work to do, so that’s exactly what we’ll be up to in the interim. We’ll be working to tell the story of why this is important, and what’s at stake. At the same time, we’ll be trying to demystify RUC for legislators and the public alike. 

We know that most people who hear about RUC are curious to learn more, so in the meantime, we’ve compiled some resources at the end of this post. 

Stay tuned for opportunities to work with us on our RUC education and advocacy. Have questions about RUC? Let us know! That will help us shape our education work. 

RUC Resources

What (the heck) is RUC?
  • Washington Road Usage Charge
    • Road usage charge (RUC) is sometimes referred to as distance-based user fees (DBUF), distance-based fees (DBF) vehicle miles traveled (VMT) fee/tax, and mileage-based user fees (MBUF).
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