July 29, 2021
America’s crumbling infrastructure has been a problem for the last couple of decades. Our roads are aging, but our gas tax is not increasing to supply the funds to keep up with necessary repairs and maintenance. It is a significant problem; in fact, 49% of roads in each state are unsafe. These roads can cause accidents, injure people, and even lead to death. That is why government leaders are introducing plans to eradicate this problem. The Biden infrastructure plan included $715 billion allotted to improving water and infrastructure in this country. One way that we can make these improvements is through road user charges. This article will break down what road user charges are and how they can help improve infrastructure.
Road usage charging is known by many different names. It is also known as distance-based user fees (DBUF), mileage tax, vehicle miles traveled tax (VMTT), and mileage-based user fees (MBUF). All of these names simply mean that instead of being charged a tax based on gallons of gas purchased, you are charged a fee based on miles driven. The fees are similar to tolls in that you’re charged for the roads that you use. But whereas tolls charge you for specific features such as highways, tunnels, or bridges, road usage charges apply to all roads within a particular area at all times. Many states (Oregon, Utah, Washington, California, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Pennsylvania, and Minnesota to name a few) are working on some form of road usage charge, and Oregon has a fully functioning program called OReGO. OReGO is a voluntary program that incentivizes users to join by offering lower registration fees to participants.
More Funds for Repairs: Road usage charges, if implemented nationwide, could bring an additional $340 million to the National Highway Fund. This boost in funding would be immensely beneficial for repairing roads, maintaining the roads that are in good shape, and building new roads for areas that have become more populated over the past few decades.
Fairer for Everyone: Road usage charges are also more equitable to all vehicle owners. All drivers use the road, but right now under a fuel tax system, all drivers are not paying equally. Drivers of electric vehicles and fuel-efficient vehicles are not paying as much as those who drive other types of vehicles. Any vehicle that causes wear and tear on the road should pay equally for the road’s use, and that is the goal of road usage charges.
Balanced Costs: If road usage charges replace the gas tax, the total cost would be about the same as what many drivers currently pay. Kauai, Hawaii researched road usage charges and found that their average driver pays $75 annually in gas taxes and would pay $75 annually with the proposed road usage charge. This would be excellent news for the Biden Administration, who does not want to incur additional taxes on people making under $400,000 a year.
Easy to Set Up: Oregon’s OReGO program uses Azuga Insight, an easy-to-install device that automatically tracks miles driven. Most vehicles built after 1996 have an OBD port, which is all you need to install Azuga Insight. Then, drivers can simply set up the wallet online and put money on their virtual wallet, and the system does the rest! It automatically tracks miles driven and deducts money from the wallet, reducing the need for administrative costs or any hassle on the driver.
Biden’s infrastructure plan has a heavy emphasis on electric vehicles. A proposed $174 billion of his funding will go towards funding electric vehicle promotion and charging stations. If electric vehicles increase in popularity, the gas tax will only suffer more, so road usage solutions on the state level are more likely to grow in popularity. Biden’s plan does not focus on a road usage charge solution. Still, individual states will likely bring these proposals to light with the increase in electric vehicles and highly fuel-efficient vehicles. Biden’s plan also injects $115 billion into the construction and upkeep of highways, bridges, and roads. This will help close the gap that the Highway Trust Fund is currently facing and make some much-needed repairs on our roads. It is the first step in repairing our crumbling infrastructure.
We must address our infrastructure problem as soon as possible. Aging roads can lead to injury and even death, and the situation will only worsen as roads continue to age. We need a long-term and sustainable solution that will help our country keep our roads on track. Azuga is the frontrunner in helping to create the technology needed to make these plans come to fruition. Find out what Azuga is up to by following our blog.