Transportation board considers report on
The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT), based on a legislative mandate to research alternatives to the traditional fuel taxes, established a unique pilot project to collect a fee based on miles traveled.
James Whitty, manager of the ODOT’s Office of Innovative Partnerships and Alternative Funding, reviewed results of the 12-month pilot project for members of the Idaho Transportation Board when it met June 19 in Boise.
Launched in April 2006, the Oregon project tested the technological and administrative feasibility of mileage-based tax concept.
Vehicles in the test group were equipped with devices that tracked miles driven. The vehicles needed to be fueled at service stations that had the technology to read the miles-driven information. Drivers would pay the pre-arranged per-mile rate at the gas station, after the state’s fuel tax was deducted from the bill so customers would not be paying both the current per-gallon tax and the miles-traveled rate.
The system was developed to allow flexibility, Whitty explained. Higher rates can be established based on the time of day travel occurs; location; and vehicle components like weight or fuel efficiency. Whitty acknowledged privacy concerns, but believes Oregon designed its system to provide the greatest privacy.
Test results show mileage concept is viable, paying at the pump works, the mileage fee can be phased in, integration with current systems can be achieved, congestion and other pricing options are viable, privacy is protected, the system would result in minimal burden on businesses, the potential for evasion is minimal, and the cost of implementation and administration is low.
The next steps for Oregon are:
Whitty said it would be difficult for small states to implement a VMT fee concept alone. A consortium of small states probably could implement a system in 10 to 12 years, or a strong effort by the U.S. Department of Transportation or the state of California could push implementation to 3- 5 years.
Oregon’s report is available at www.oregon.gov/ODOT/HWY/OIPP/ruftf.shtml
Other board discussion
U.S. 95, Sandpoint North and South Project, District 1, Bonner County
The low bid for the major realignment/expansion project, which consists of widening, realigning, and reconstructing a 2.1-mile section of U.S. 95 in Sandpoint, exceeded the engineer’s estimate by 17 percent.
Mobilization and items related to steel acquisition resulted in most of the difference between the engineer’s estimate and the low bid. ITD staff members said some of the higher bids are attributed to the concern of not being able to haul material through town, increases in steel prices and difficulty in securing price commitments from suppliers for future delivery. A limited number of construction “windows” and constraints because of the project location also contributed to the disparity between estimates and bids.
The board approved awarding the contract to Parsons RCI Inc. of Sumner, Wash., for $98,423,644. The board also decided to fund the additional costs of approximately $14.5 million by delaying or removing four pavement preservation projects in District 1.
Oregon Trail-Bear Lake Scenic Byway Corridor Management Plan
The plan adequately addressed federal requirements that provide a framework to preserve and enhance the desired natural rural character of the corridor. The plan provides a long-term vision of the byway and identifies strategies to promote the corridor. It also provides a platform for forming partnerships, seeking funding and gaining consensus for economic development activities.
Public Transportation Grant Funding
ITD’s Division of Public Transportation conducted public meetings for the grant applications, and along with the Public Transportation Advisory Council, recommended approval of the grants. Among the recipients are: Coeur d’Alene Tribe, Treasure Valley Transit, Blaine County Senior Citizens and Mackay Senior Citizens.
Funding also was included as match for a proposed Congressional earmark. The project is for capital improvements in the deployment of a Statewide Intelligent Transportation System project for public transit. The money will be used to purchase technology for real-time dispatching, tracking and billing to better manage vehicle fleets as part of the ongoing coordination process.