Another look at replacing the gas tax

As we struggle to figure out how to fund the next surface transportation bill, the topic of raising the gas tax continues to emerge. It’s not a popular idea amongst the motoring public — no one likes increased taxes, including myself — but it’s one of the most viable ways to fund transportation.

The federally funded gas tax is 18.4 cents per gallon, the rate which it has been since 1993. States and counties also have their own gas taxes.

Regardless of whether the gas tax is increased, we absolutely need another way to fund the Highway Trust Fund and surface transportation.

A Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) tax has been proposed and even tested, but the Obama Administration has table the idea for now.

Oregon conducted a one-year pilot in the Portland area. The test program, which had more than 280 volunteers, found that a mileage fee could feasibly replace the gas tax as the principal revenue source for road funding, reports the Oregon Department of Transportation.

Now, the University of Iowa is conducting a 10-month federally funded study to see if taxing motorists by miles traveled to see if it could replace the gas tax. Participants, who will be sent mock invoices to show how much tax they would pay if taxed by the mile (instead of by the gallon) can make $895 if they’re willing to have a small, on-board computer system to measure mileage, according to a report in the Chicago Sun-Times.

The University of Iowa wants 250 Chicago motorists to participate in the study, according to the newspaper report. Thousands have already signed up for it.

If the study proves effective, we still have a ways to go before it could be implemented. Privacy is still a major concern, and there are logistics with installing the on-board computers in every vehicle.