On December 17, the Washington State Transportation Commission officially adopted recommendations on how to transition away from the traditional tax on motor fuels toward a road usage charge system to generate funds for state transportation needs.
[Above photo by WSDOT.]
Those recommendations – which will be transmitted to the Washington State legislature, Governor Jay Inslee (D) and the Federal Highway Administration in January 2020 – include requiring vehicles in the state-owned fleet to pay a road usage charge in lieu of the gas tax, followed by electric vehicle owners and then hybrid vehicle owners, who currently pay little to no motor fuel taxes.
While it did not offer a timeline for the full transition of all vehicles within the state to a road usage charge – a per-mile fee drivers would pay for the use of the roads, as opposed to paying by the gallon of gas – the commission recommended that should not occur for at least 10 years and likely several decades as many cars continue to pay the gas tax.
Yet it stressed that as vehicles become more fuel-efficient or switch to electric power for propulsion, revenue derived from motor fuel taxes is expected to decline by as much as 45 percent by 2035.
“This is an important first step in ensuring future funding security for Washington’s aging roads and bridges,” said Jerry Litt, the commission’s chair, in a statement.
“Revenues from our state gas tax will begin to decline as vehicle fuel efficiency continues to increase. We are already struggling to ensure adequate funding to maintain our system of roads and bridges today,” he added.
“We believe road usage charging is a promising and viable option for the legislature to consider, and now is the time to begin a gradual but necessary transition away from relying on the consumption of fossil fuel to fund our roads,” Litt emphasized.