Where and How Much Have You Been Driving, Comrade?

Accident traffic jam on Oregon's I-5. (AP photo)

Accident traffic jam on Oregon’s I-5.
(AP photo)

Here it comes — a test program in Oregon to charge drivers by the mile.

The program is meant to help the state raise more revenue to pay for road and bridge projects at a time when money generated from gasoline taxes are declining across the country, in part, because of greater fuel efficiency and the increasing popularity of fuel-efficient, hybrid and electric cars.

Starting July 1, up to 5,000 volunteers in Oregon can sign up to drive with devices that collect data on how much they have driven and where. The volunteers will agree to pay 1.5 cents for each mile traveled on public roads within Oregon, instead of the tax now added when filling up at the pump.

Some electric and hybrid car owners, however, say the new tax would be unfair to them and would discourage purchasing of green vehicles.


Not to mention it’s creepy and intrusive for the state government to track your driving.

I have a simpler and less invasive solution. Take the state road budget, then first subtract what’s collected in state gas taxes. Whatever figure is left, divide by the number of car registrations, prorated by vehicle weight. Heavier cars and trucks would pay more than lighter ones, using a formula based on the differential in road wear.

Tack the resulting number onto each vehicle registration fee.

Gas guzzlers would still pay more at the pump, keeping the greenies happy. Heavier vehicles would pay for the additional wear & tear they cause to the roads, even the ones with hybrid or other super-efficient engines. Owners of tiny electric cars would still pay something for the roads they use the same as everyone else.

A small toll for using Oregon’s interstate highways, for which state residents would receive rebates, would make sure out-of-staters pay their fair share, too.

And civil libertarians like myself wouldn’t get the heebie-jeebies at the mere thought of taking a road trip through Oregon’s gorgeous scenery.


I know, I know — it makes too much sense to ever happen.


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