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Tolling Points

Oregon’s Road Usage Charging Pilot Project Gains Momentum Creating a Stir

By: 
Bill Cramer

The OReGO launch has created quite a stir across the state, with a wave of consumer interest and a steady drumbeat of news coverage. In a recent interview with the Register-Guard in Eugene, OR, ODOT Public Information Officer Michelle Godfrey noted that nearly half of the program volunteers drive relatively efficient vehicles—which means a per-gallon gas tax works in their favor.

“We all depend on good roads even if we don’t drive, for the economy and for emergency services,” Godfrey said. “It seems that they are willing to pay a little bit more to make sure those roads are there long into the future.”

The Sincerest Form of Flattery

Another recent news story from half-way around the world suggests that OReGO may soon be the recipient of the sincerest form of flattery: Imitation.

Oregon has come up with “a really interesting model” for funding highway infrastructure, Australian Deputy Infrastructure Minister Jamie Briggs told the Sydney Morning Herald late last month. "I want to organize the key official we met with to come over to Australia at some point, hopefully later this year, and explain what they've done," he said, after attending the OReGO launch in Salem July 1.

Briggs’ explanation to the Morning Herald underscored what tolling professionals already know—that problems with gas tax revenues aren’t limited to Oregon, the United States, or North America.

"The amount we collect is far shorter than the amount that's required to maintain and improve the existing stock of infrastructure," he said. "Fuel excise is going to becoming a diminishing source of revenue very quickly."

Bringing the Public Onboard

At IBTTA’s Transportation Finance and Road Usage Charging Conference in late April, communications strategist Su Midghall presented polling data on Oregonians’ attitudes to road usage charging. “You do have the public support to elevate this issue,” but the starting point for the conversation “is taking care of the investment they’ve already put money into,” she said. “If we don’t talk about maintenance right away, they’re going to assume that any funding is for new roads, highways, and bridges.”

Godfrey stressed that RUC is more than just a new way to raise funds—important as that is. “It’s not just a policy change,” she told participants. “It’s a social change. With per-mile charges, people now have a stronger connection to paying for the roads,” and how Oregonians see that change “depends on whether they see the power as empowerment or burden.”

Click here to download the full report from IBTTA’s 2015 Transportation Finance and Road Usage Charging Conference.

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