How would you feel about paying road taxes based on the number of miles you drive instead of how much gasoline you use?
That’s one option being explored across the country as state after state tries to find creative ways to deal with the cost of fixing crumbling roads, while recognizing that more cars are using less gasoline, or in some cases no gasoline at all.
In Ohio, where gas tax collections have been flat for years and the state is running out of money for road projects, new Gov. Mike DeWine is confronting the issue.
The Governor’s Advisory Committee on Transportation Infrastructure, named by DeWine to look for solutions, last week found agreement on just one option: It recommended increasing Ohio’s 28-cent-per-gallon tax on gasoline. It made no recommendations on other ways to raise money, after hearing just two hours of public testimony.
Here are some of the alternatives to raising gas taxes, including what is already being done or explored elsewhere.
An electric car is charged in Montpelier, Vermont. (Associated Press)Raising tolls on the Ohio Turnpike to pay for non-Turnpike road work
Gov. John Kasich’s short-term fix came with a long-term bill.
The Ohio Turnpike beginning in 2013 borrowed $1.35 billion to pay for non-Turnpike Ohio Department of Transportation projects. Those bonds won’t be paid off until 2048, according to the Turnpike’s payment schedule.
In large part to cover those loan payments, the turnpike approved a series of toll increases of 2.7 percent a year for 10 years. Compounded together, the annual hikes will amount to a 31 percent increase in tolls for cars traveling the length of the road.
Tapping that resource again would mean either more toll increases, or payments on loans even further down the road. Either of those choices would be a difficult sell to the public, especially northern Ohioans who use Ohio’s only toll highway.
Decades ago, additional toll roads were more commonly discussed as a long-term option.
For example, Jeffry Armbruster, then chairman of the Ohio Senate’s Highways and Transportation Committee, in 2002 suggested consideration of tolls for new or existing roads that require major improvements.
“I feel that in the long term, we are going to have to pay to drive,” Armbruster said at the time.
But that was 17 years ago, and there has been no movement on that idea.
California State Transportation Agency report on Road Charge Pilot ProgramSpecial fees for electric or hybrid cars
Since the gasoline tax has been treated as a user tax of sorts, charging users of all-electric or hybrid vehicles seems like a logical step for many of those involved in the discussions.
But ODOT Director Jack Marchbanks testified before the special transportation committee that doing so would raise just a “paltry” sum toward the current funding problems.
Marchbanks said a $75 a year fee for hybrid vehicles and $250 for electric vehicles would raise $2.5 million a year.
The state now collects about $1.8 billion from its gasoline tax, a total that has remained essentially unchanged over the last decade.
For comparison, the driver traveling 20,000 miles in a car at 25 miles per gallon now pays $224 a year in Ohio gas taxes, and another $147 in federal gas taxe