Washington Road Usage Charge

The Washington State Transportation Commission is planning to test a project that will charge drivers taxes based on the miles they travel on public roads.  To combat recent shifts towards hybrid and electric vehicles, officials are trying to design a new way to fairly split costs for the maintenance of the roads.

The Road Usage Charge would then take the place of the current gas tax.  The pilot program would begin in 2016, using GPS tracking devices to record how many miles were driven by a particular vehicle and then calculate the fee.  Experts say drivers must be provided with choices of how their fee will be calculated.  The newest proposal would offer one flat fee for unlimited driving; have drivers report their odometer readings to the state; have drivers install a GPS locator in their car; or have drivers install an application on their smartphone.  Other non-GPS based systems are also being tested to protect drivers’ privacy.  If a GPS tracker were used, the state would not track where the drivers were, only the mileage they travel. 

Lawmakers requested that the Transportation Commission develop a new way to fund the roads.  In the past, the gas tax has been the main source of funding for maintenance, but a decline in that amount has been seen in recent years. 

After the pilot program begins in 2016, a final program would not be expected to begin until 2018.