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HASSO HERING

A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Road fee: What’s the problem?

Written March 29th, 2013 by
The House Transportation Committee backed the bill, but Republicans didn't.

The Oregon House Transportation Committee backed the bill, but its Republican members didn’t.

It’s not obvious to me why Republicans are opposed to making the owners of so-called green vehicles pay their fair share of the cost of keeping up Oregon roads. Owners of all-electric and hybrid cars now pay little or nothing toward the highway fund, even while all other motorists buying fuel in Oregon pay 30 cents a gallon. That can’t go on forever, especially if the number of high-mileage vehicles grows.

So, House Bill 2013 would have ODOT develop a system of charging a road tax on vehicles that get more than 55 miles to the gallon. The fee would start with vehicles in the 2015 model year. This has been debated since the legislature formed the Road User Task Force in 2001. Conservatives generally were suspicious of any system that allowed the state to track where vehicles went, but that was never the idea.

The idea was to find an automated and simple system for reporting how many miles vehicles are driven so they could be charged a fee per mile. Nissan and other car makers already install such systems, so it’s no big deal. And yet, when the House Transportation Committee on March 27 endorsed the bill, all six Democrats on the panel voted for it, and all four Republicans voted no. I’m trying to find out why paying for roads was a partisan issue, at least on that bill. (hh)

Ted Salmons, via Facebook: I absolutely support a system that enforces the “you use it, you help pay for it” fairness system.  Also if anybody supports this theory, then I can’t understand how they could not support bicyclists paying fees to help pay for a road system also.  At least for hybrids and totally electric cars, all drivers use the same portion of the roads.  Only bicyclists get a portion of the same roads that are set aside just for their use.  Where’s the fairness of that?

My response: It’s a question of practicality and diminishing returns.There is no feasible way to assess or collect a bike tax proportionate to the extent to which a bike is used on public roads. Further, pedestrians also use roads. If there’s a fee for bicycles, would a fee for walking be next? (hh)



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