Oregon launches first road user charge programme

ODOT will charge drivers 1.5 cents per mile in road user fees that will then be deposited into the State Highway Fund.

Oregon’s Department of Transportation (ODOT) is ready to launch OReGO, the first road usage charge programme to be implemented in the US, as an alternative means of funding highway maintenance and construction, the state agency said in a statement.

The programme will launch July 1, but ODOT has already selected three private partners that will manage the road user accounts. Fleet management companies Azuga, Sanef and Verizon Telematics will collect the road user fees, which will then be deposited in the State Highway Fund, according to the statement.

Participants in the programme, who are volunteering, will be charged 1.5 cents per mile driven and will either receive a credit or a bill for the difference in gas taxes they’ve already paid at the pump. OReGO is currently limited to 5,000 cars and light-duty commercial vehicles, ODOT said.

The selection of three private partners will allow drivers to choose a provider and the plan that best suits them the same way they choose a calling plan or cable provider, according to the OReGO website.

“This is the wave of the future,” said Jim Whitty, manager of ODOT’s Office of Innovative Partnerships and Alternative Funding. “We’ve got to find a more sustainable and fair way to fund highway maintenance and new construction or our economy will suffer as our roads get more crowded and less safe.”

Oregon, whose legislature approved the creation of the programme, has already conducted two pilot projects to test road usage charging. It has beat Washington, California, Idaho, Colorado and other states considering similar initiatives, as the first to do so.

ODOT cited more fuel-efficient cars as one of the main reasons the state’s fuel tax revenues keep shrinking and are therefore unable to keep up with the need for road maintenance and new construction.