Last week, WSP USA began leading a feasibility study to determine if traditional fuel taxation can be replaced with a more equitable road usage charging (RUC) program, in which motorists would pay a per-mile charge to use the roadways, instead of a tax based on the amount of fuel they purchase. Under an RUC program, miles driven in a vehicle would be assessed and reported to determine a mileage-based user fee.
The study's sponsor, known as the RUC West Coalition, is a multi-state coalition of departments of transportation from Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Texa, Utah and Washington.
RUC would mark the most significant change in the way funds for roadways are generated, which have depended upon gasoline taxes for nearly a century.
“The rising cost of providing roadway capacity, particularly in urban areas, has outpaced the fuel tax's ability to provide necessary funding to develop and maintain an efficient system,” said David Ungemah, project manager for the RUC West program. “Roadway capital and operating and maintenance costs have risen with inflation, but the federal fuel tax has not changed since it was last raised in 1993.”
While the popularity of fuel-efficient vehicles provides environmental benefits and cost savings for motorists, it is also contributing to an expanding gap between needed funding and available funding for transportation infrastructure projects.
RUC West is exploring equitable ways to collect revenue that yield a better connection between road use and payment for the surface transportation system.
“WSP has been at the forefront of developing answers to these challenges,” Ungemah said. “We have assisted multiple state clients in analyzing concerns, providing solutions, and enabling legislative authority to pursue these concepts.”