Caltrans studying mileage charge
As roads across the state buckle under the pressure from weeks of storms, the need for funding infrastructure is more obvious than ever. But road repair is funded largely by gas tax. With more drivers choosing to go electric, and even the gas-based fleet trending toward conservation, the state is looking for a different formula to collect revenue to pay for public roads. Senate Bill 339, which was signed into law a year and a half ago, sets up a series of pilot programs to figure out how to organize a system based on mileage, called a road charge.
The pilot program that started this month targets rural and tribal motorists. The California Department of Transportation, or Caltrans, is asking drivers to take part in a study to find out how much they drive, and if there's a way to differentiate when they’re driving on public, private, tribal, or out of state roads. The current system of relying on gas taxes will be in place at least until 2027.
We asked if county roads would benefit from the eventual tax monies that will be collected if a road charge system is put in place. Lauren Prehoda, who is currently heading the road charge study, wrote in an email that, “the scope of our research effort is mainly focused on how funding comes in, not necessarily how it is spent. Keep in mind that we are exploring a road charge as a potential replacement for the gas tax to stabilize that existing state and county road maintenance funding, and there are already extensive formulas in place in state law on how the money is spent. That being said, should this policy idea be taken up by the Legislature for debate, they have the power to change those expenditure formulas as well should they so choose.”
Lauren Schmitt of KMUD interviewed Prehoda for more.