A first-of-its-kind voluntary program that allows enrolled drivers to pay gas taxes on the actual number of miles they drive instead of at the pump is off and running in Oregon.
The Oregon Department of Transportation debuted its new OReGO program this week, and up to 5,000 motorists — limited to those with cars and light-duty commercial vehicles — can enroll. Participants pay 1.5 cents per mile while driving in Oregon and receive a credit for the state gas taxes — currently 30 cents a gallon — they paid at the pump.
ODOT officials have said the program is intended to give a boost to shrinking fuel tax revenue used for road construction and maintenance. "As newer cars squeeze more miles out of each gallon of gas, and more hybrid and all-electric vehicles are sold, paying for road use by the mile instead of by the gallon ensures that everyone pays their fair share — no more, no less," ODOT director Matthew Garrett said in a release.
ODOT Communications Manager Tom Fuller said in an interview that OReGO could change the way all Oregonians pay for roads in the next few years, though that discussion will be started in the Legislature after the agency has collected a significant amount of data and public opinion.
"It'll inform this kind of robust discussion that will probably happen in 2017," Fuller said, adding the program could also sunset completely.
Fuller said the gas tax credit is based on a car's Environmental Protection Agency rating, and that drivers with cars that get better gas mileage will pay more under OReGO.
For example, take a 2014 Toyota Prius, which has an EPA rating of 50 miles per gallon, and a 2014 Ford F-150, which has a rating of 18 miles per gallon. Based on ODOT data that an average Oregonian travels 12,962 miles annually, here's how the gas taxes would compare under the current system and under OReGO:
The Prius driver would use 259.24 gallons annually, while the Ford driver would use 720.11 gallons. With the average price of gas (including fuel tax) at about $2.876 per gallon, the F-150 driver would pay $2,071.04 in gasoline costs annually, while the Prius driver would pay $745.57. Under the per-mile charge, the Prius driver would pay $862.23 annually — or an increase of $116.66 — while the F-150 driver would pay $2,049.43, a $21.60 drop.
According to a calculator feature on the OReGo site, any driver with a car that gets more than 20 miles per gallon will pay more.
Those who drive very little could get additional credits on their account, or even a check, Fuller said.
"It depends on which vendor you're with," he said.
After registering on the website, drivers will receive a small reporting device they plug into their vehicle to track the mileage. Quarterly billing statements or other programs will help drivers keep track of tax owed and credited, according to the OReGo website.
Personal information, such as home address, phone number and VIN number, are required, though ODOT officials say all personal information will remain secure.
For more information, or to sign up, visit www.myOReGO.org.
Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at www.twitter.com/ryanpfeil.