Washington state lawmakers will consider a system that would charge drivers fees based on how many miles they travel. File photo

Washington state lawmakers will consider a system that would charge drivers fees based on how many miles they travel. File photo

Lawmakers hear pitch to replace gas tax with per-mile fees

Transportation officials recommend 10-year transition.

By Cameron Sheppard, WNPA News Service

Washington state lawmakers will consider a gradual transition from the state’s current gasoline tax to a system that would charge drivers fees based on how many miles they travel.

This comes amid rising concerns over the amount of revenue available to fund transportation and the maintenance of roads and highways due to increasing fuel-efficiency among vehicles, as well as concerns that owners of older and less fuel-efficient vehicles are carrying a larger tax burden.

The House Transportation Committee heard a report Jan. 23 from the Washington State Transportation Commission on the feasibility and logistics of a road usage charge program.

Reema Griffith, executive director of the Washington State Transportation Commission, said “not everyone is paying their fair share for use of the roads.”

Griffith said drivers whose vehicles average fewer than 20 miles per gallon fuel efficiency could be paying up to five cents in taxes for every mile they drive, while drivers whose vehicles get more than 20 miles per gallon could be paying as little as one penny.

She said the current gas tax system creates a situation in which the vehicle you can afford, or what your lifestyle allows, determines how much you pay when traveling.

“Taxing gallons does have fairness and equity challenges,” Griffith said.

Griffith said the Transportation Commission recommends a slow transition from the current gas tax to the road usage charge over the next 10 years with the old and new tax systems running parallel to each other initially. She said while collection of the per-mile fees will be more costly than collection of the gas tax, which drivers pay at the pump, the net revenue from the road usage charge will exceed the net revenue provided by the gas tax.

The transportation commission conducted a pilot test with a diverse range of drivers in the state who drove a collective 15 million miles during the pilot program and paid a rate of 2.4 cents per mile driven.

Multiple methods of measuring miles driven were tested, including odometer measurements reported quarterly, a smartphone app, permits that allow for a specific block or number of miles to be driven, and plug-in devices that operate with and without GPS.

Griffith said surveys and focus groups done with test drivers indicated that privacy was one of their greatest concerns. She said 47% of pilot program participants did not want GPS to be used to track their vehicle.

The commission’s report estimated that under the road usage charge, owners of less fuel efficient vehicles will likely pay less, and hybrid/electric vehicle owners who drive more than 12,000 miles per year could end up paying more than they currently do.

Rep. Andrew Barkis, R-Olympia, expressed concerns that implementation of the road usage charge could shift the equity disparity burden to owners of vehicles with higher fuel efficiency, which might disincentivize people to purchase hybrid and electric vehicles.


In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@bothell-reporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.bothell-reporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

More in News

Gov. Jay Inslee issued new guidance allowing the resumption of self-service buffets, salad bars, salsa bars, drink stations and other types of communal food sources in Phase 2. File photo
Buffets and salad bars back on the menu in King County

Gov. Jay Inslee has revised rules to allow self-serve food areas in Phase 2 of the state’s reopening.

Brian Tilley (left) and Katie Dearman work the wash station Friday at Kate’s Greek American Deli in Everett. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Governor’s no-mask, no-service order begins across Washington

“Just do not ring up the sale,” Gov. Jay Inslee said about customers who do not don the proper masks.

King County homeless count: 11,751 people, up 5 percent from 2019

One night a year, volunteers spread out across Seattle and King County… Continue reading

Free ‘safe start’ supply kits for local businesses July 14

Small businesses can get free cloth masks, disposable masks and hand sanitizer

Nurse Sylvia Keller, pictured with Gov. Jay Inslee, is on the front lines of the COVID-19 battle in Yakima County. Courtesy photo
Governor doubles down on mask rules

Inslee: Starting July 7, businesses do not serve those who do not wear a mask

State Capitol Building in Olympia. File photo
Politicians get pay raises, state workers get furloughs

A citizens panel approved the hikes in 2019. Unable to rescind them, lawmakers look to donate their extra earnings.

Starting July 6, three road paving projects to prepare for

Two full road closures and night paving work is coming to Redmond Ridge at Novelty Hill Road, near Duvall, July 6 through August

Human remains in West Seattle identified

Bags of body parts were found in a suitcase along a West Seattle beach on June 19.

According to King County’s Mental Illness and Drug Dependency (MIDD) annual report, Seattle had the highest rate of people using services at 36 percent of the total, followed by 31 percent from South King County, 18 percent from the greater Eastside, and 7 percent from north county including Shoreline. Courtesy image
Drug courts, officer de-escalation programs impacted by MIDD cuts

The fund provides money for mental illness and drug dependency programs across King County.

Most Read