AGC held a WebEd this week to inform members and chapters about developments in the use of mileage based user fees to fund transportation infrastructure investments at the federal and state levels in the future. Participants heard from Jack Basso, former DOT Budget Director and Chairman of the Mileage Based Use Fee Alliance (MBUFA), who discussed the current depleted status of the Highway Trust Fund and the need to find alternative revenue sources to supplement and possibly replace the gas tax. Basso reported that numerous studies and research reports have supported the move to mileage based fees and currently 29 states are examining how this funding system could be used in their state. MBUFA’s role is to educate and advocate for mileage based user fees.
Bob Arnold, Director of DOT’s Office of Transportation Management reported on provisions in the FAST Act which provided $95 million in grant funding to support states in implementing pilot programs to test various alternative user fee initiatives for purposes of maintaining the future long-term solvency of the Federal Highway Trust Fund. The first round of grant solicitations received as many as 17 requests for part of the $15 million in funding available this year, including two from groups of states that wanted to work together on a pilot program. Grant recipients will be identified by the end of the summer. One more grant solicitation will go out in the first quarter of 2017 to allow additional states to organize their own pilot programs. The remaining $80 million in funding may be fully committed during the second round. Interested states need to act quickly to receive this federal funding support.
Finally, Malcolm Dougherty, Director of CalTrans, reported on California’s road charge pilot program. The state plans a nine month demonstration project which will be a “paper” exercise without actually collecting fees to identify implementation issues. They hoped for 5,000 volunteer participants statewide and received applications from almost 8,000 including business fleet operations. Several construction companies applied to be part of the experiment. Participants can use one of five mileage reporting concepts to determine which works best. The pilot includes 10 data security features to ensure privacy concerns are addressed. While legislation wasn’t necessary, CalTrans asked for legislation to ensure buy-in from the legislature and the public. California has submitted a request to US DOT for grant funding to support its pilot. In addition, the state is part of a 14 western state consortium that is working together to test the mileage fee concept which also applied for a grant.
The slides and audio from the webinar are available here.